The Mormon church says older teens in the United States and Canada will no longer take part in two Boy Scouts programs, starting next year.
The announcement, made Thursday, is significant. The church and the Boy Scouts of America have had a relationship for more than a century. It was the first partner to sponsor Scouting in the United States, and to this day remains the nation’s largest sponsor.
Approximately 330,000 Mormon youths are served by the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts program.
Starting its own activities program
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it will begin a new activities program for boys ages 14 to 18. It said the BSA’s Varsity and Venturing programs, both of which aim to prepare teens for adulthood, were difficult to implement on the local level. Venturing is open to boys and girls. The Varsity program “challenges boys who want a rugged outdoor experience.”
The church said the move was meant to shift focus to “spiritual, social, physical and intellectual goals outlined by the Church.”
But it comes at a time the church has expressed reservations about the Boy Scouts’ decision to allow gay and transgender troop leaders.
Two years ago, when the Boy Scouts of America voted to remove its national restriction on openly gay leaders and employees, the LDS Church said it was “deeply troubled” by the decision. It called the admission of openly gay leaders “inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church.”
Still, the church remained affiliated after the Boy Scouts gave it written and verbal assurances that the church could choose its own troop leaders according to its own religious and moral values.
The Scouts’ response
Responding to Thursday’s announcement, the Boy Scouts of America said it “deeply appreciates” its relationship with the church.
“We recognize that not all programs are a perfect fit for all partners,” it said.
The announcement does not impact Mormon churches worldwide, just ones in the US and Canada.
And the Utah-based church will continue to partner with the larger Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs for boys and young men ages 8 through 13.
The change goes into effect January 1.
CNN’s Devon Sayers, Phil Gast and Carma Hassan contributed this report.