The Mormon Church will no longer participate in Boy Scouts of America programs for youth aged 14-18 — a change that church officials say was not motivated by the BSA’s liberalization of policies on gay and trans issues, event though the church had expressed concern about some of these.
Beginning next year, Mormon congregations will not sponsor the Scouts’ Varsity or Venturing programs, which are for that age group. They will continue to participate in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs for children aged 8-13, officials said today in a post on the church website.
“In most congregations in the United States and Canada, young men ages 14-18 are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the Church,” the post reads. “This change will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men.” The church, however, will continue to see that older teens working toward the Eagle Scout designation have the opportunity to do so.
“Church leaders said the change was not influenced by recent Boy Scout policies to accept gay troop leaders, transgender youth and young girls,” NBC News reports.
The church, officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has not objected to admitting gay and trans youth and girls to BSA programs, but it did express concern when the organization lifted its ban on adult gay leaders two years ago. “The admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America,” said a Mormon Church statement issued at the time, which also said the church it was reconsidering its association with the Scouts.
The BSA did include an exemption from the policy on leaders for troop sponsors with faith-based objections, but certain conservative denominations (other than the LDS Church) were not satisfied with that. Some Roman Catholic and other congregations cut ties with the Scouts over the policy.
The Mormon Church admits gay, lesbian, and bisexual members but expects them not to act on same-sex attractions. In 2015 it strengthened its antigay stances, denying baptism, in most cases, to the children of same-sex couples. On transgender issues, it considers gender to be fixed and binary, but some church leaders have said there is “unfinished business” in church teaching on transgender identity.