Joining the Boy Scouts is practically automatic among Mormon boys, and the religion has long been the biggest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States. The Mormon boys who will be leaving represent about 18.5 percent of the 2.3 million youth in the organization.
The Mormon church said in a statement that the move is about creating its own youth program that it can use for its increasingly global membership, but the two organizations’ values clearly have been diverging in recent years.
The Boy Scouts decided in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders and announced last year it would allow girls in its ranks. Last week, the organization said it will change the name of its flagship program next year to Scouts BSA to account for the inclusion of girls.
Like other conservative faiths, the Mormon church opposes gay marriage and teaches that being in a homosexual relationship is a sin. The church initially said it was “deeply troubled” by the Boy Scouts’ policy change on gays but stayed with the organization after receiving assurances it could appoint troop leaders according to its own religious and moral values.