The Mormon Church is ending its century-old support of the Boy Scouts of America over the youth group’s decision to admit girls and for changing its name to eliminate the “boy” part of the name.
The Church’s announcement comes on the heels of the Scouts’ decision to change the name of its 108-year-old boys program from “Boy Scouts” to “Scouts BSA.” The name change was sparked by the group’s new policy to end the boys-only policy and to allow girls to join the program.
While the BSA claimed this was a move into the future, the decision sent the Mormon Church in another direction. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has now decided to cut its century-old relationship with the scouts.
Fox News reported that the Mormon’s 105-year-old support for the Scouts is over even though the church has 330,000 Mormon boys in the program. The Church was the biggest single supporter of the BSA. Indeed, about 20 percent of all scouts were brought to the program by the Mormon Church.
The Utah-based religion released a May 8 statement thanking the BSA for its past work, but noting that the new direction the club has taken is not the sort of thing they want to support:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America have been partners for more than 100 years. The Scouting program has benefited hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saint boys and young men, and BSA has also been greatly benefited in the process. We jointly express our gratitude to the thousands of Scout leaders and volunteers who have selflessly served over the years in Church-sponsored Scouting units, including local BSA districts and councils.
In this century of shared experience, the Church has grown from a U.S.-centered institution to a worldwide organization, with a majority of its membership living outside the United States. That trend is accelerating. The Church has increasingly felt the need to create and implement a uniform youth leadership and development program that serves its members globally. In so doing, it will be necessary for the Church to discontinue its role as a chartered partner with BSA.
We have jointly determined that, effective on December 31, 2019, the Church will conclude its relationship as a chartered organization with all Scouting programs around the world. Until that date, to allow for an orderly transition, the intention of the Church is to remain a fully engaged partner in Scouting for boys and young men ages 8–13 and encourages all youth, families, and leaders to continue their active participation and financial support.
While the Church will no longer be a chartered partner of BSA or sponsor Scouting units after December 31, 2019, it continues to support the goals and values reflected in the Scout Oath and Scout Law and expresses its profound desire for Scouting’s continuing and growing success in the years ahead.
The church said it wants to explore new and different types of youth programs to replace its reliance on scouting.
One Utah-based scouting group was disappointed by the move. The Utah National Parks Council released a statement bemoaning the move.
“There are 84,000 boys in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts in the National Parks Council, with approximately 44,000 adult leaders, according to council demographics. It also owns 13 Scout camps throughout Utah,” the Daily Herald reported.
In the Utah National Parks Council, this will impact us significantly. We are fully committed to the tens of thousands of Scout leaders who have served and continue to serve in church-sponsored Scouting units,” said Melany Gardner, council spokeswoman, via a press statement. “In the transition through 2020, the BSA has already committed to dedicating resources and support to help ensure Scouting programs continue to help young people learn leadership, develop character, and grow closer to God.
We also look forward to our future opportunities to work with community partners to further the mission of the Boy Scouts of America in Utah. For those LDS and non-LDS youth currently registered in Church-sponsored units who wish to continue in the program, we will ensure a smooth transition into community-sponsored units in 2020.
For the past several years, we have made our camps more available to youth in the area who are not involved in traditional year-round Scouting units. This has given more youth than ever, including young women, the opportunity to have meaningful experiences in the outdoors. Our camps will continue to be available for use by LDS youth groups who wish to take advantage of our facilities for their future outdoor program needs.
The move came less than a week after the BSA changed its boys-only policy, as Fox News reported:
After 108 years, the Boy Scouts program is set to drop the gender from its name and re-emerge as “Scouts BSA,” a more “inclusive” group that will also soon welcome girls in its ranks.
Boy Scouts of America, the parent organization of the Boy Scouts program, made the announcement Wednesday. Though the decision to toss “Boy” aside was considered controversial by some, Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh said the new name came about after an “incredibly fun” deliberation.
“We wanted to land on something that evokes the past but also conveys the inclusive nature of the program going forward,” he said. “We’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.”
The name change is expected to take effect next February. Boy Scouts of America and Cub Scouts will keep their titles. Cub Scouts – the program for 7- to 10-year-olds – has already started to admit girls.
The 11- to 17-year-olds who join Scouts BSA will likely start referring to themselves as scouts without a gender modifier, Surbaugh said.
It seems likely that the Mormon Church’s decision was the last straw in a relationship that has been falling apart for five years over changes in the BSA’s policies, especially its 2015 decision to allow gays to serve as scout masters.
It appears that the Church is just done with the whole thing. And who can blame them?