In recent years, amid declining membership, the Boy Scouts of America started to welcome openly gay youth members and adult volunteers as well as girls and transgender boys.
Such “inclusivity” has its price.
On Jan. 1, the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will deal another blow to the staggering organization when it pulls out more than 400,000 youths and moves them into its own, new global program.
The change is likely to push the Boy Scouts closer to the brink of bankruptcy as they face a new wave of sexual abuse lawsuits, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
For decades, the Utah-based faith was one of Boy Scouts of America’s greatest allies and the largest sponsor of local troops. Losing the church’s support will cause an approximately 18 percent drop in Boy Scout youth membership compared with last year’s numbers and mark the first time since World War II that membership will fall below 2 million.
At the organization’s peak in the 70s, more than 4 million boys belonged to the Scouts.
Wayne Perry, a church member and past president of Boy Scouts of America who currently serves on its national board, said the end of the long-term alliance will force councils in the West to lay off employees and sell off camps.
The church’s new youth program will include camping and other outdoor activities wherever feasible, but there won’t be uniforms or a chance to earn the venerable Eagle Scout rank, the highest in Scouting, long seen as a key milestone for teen boys in the church. The focus instead will be on religion and spiritual development, with youths working toward to earn rings, medallions and pendants inscribed with images of church temples.
Perry understands why the faith wants a program it can use worldwide because more than half its members live outside the U.S. and Canada, where the Boy Scouts isn’t available. But he predicts that a heavy emphasis on the gospel may leave some young church members who already go to two-hour church services each Sunday and other Bible studies longing for Boy Scouts.
The split between the Boy Scouts and church ends a nearly century-old relationship between two organizations that were brought together by shared values but have diverged in recent years. The church maintains that same-sex intimacy is a sin.