Mormons drop Scouts after century-long partnership
The Mormon church have announced that they are to end their partnership with the Boy Scouts of America next year, after over 105 years of working together.
In a joint statement released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America, the two said that: "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."
For many years, joining the Boy Scouts has been a right of passage for Mormon boys, who are estimated to make up some 20 per cent of its 2.4 million members. The removal of the automatic enrollment will do little to help the organisation's dwindling numbers, which have fallen sharply from around 2.8 million in 2012. The Mormon church is also one of the organisation's most generous sponsors.
Officially, the church said its decision to sever ties stemmed from the fact that it has now grown into a worldwide organisation, with many members outside of the United States. As a result, it says it now wants to "create and implement a uniform youth leadership and development program that serves its members globally."
However, the two groups have experienced increasingly divergent values in recent years despite their partnership being founded on shared principles. In 2015, the organisation made the decision to allow openly gay and transgender individuals to serve as troop leaders, a move the church said at the time that they were "deeply troubled" by. The Mormon church teaches that homosexuality is a sin and opposes gay marriage.
Furthermore, the church also prefers to enrol boys and girls into separate youth programmes and so is believed to be unhappy with a recent decision to allow girls to join the Boy Scouts. The announcement comes just one week after the group, whose flagship programme will be renamed Scouts BSA from next year to reflect the change, launched a major marketing campaign to attract more girls.
It is unclear at present what form the church's new leadership and development programme will take. However, last year it did remove some 185,000 boys between the ages of 14 and 18 from the Boy Scouts, instead turning them towards church-based community service.