Mormon church pulls older teens out of Boy Scouts
SALT LAKE CITY (AP):
The Mormon church, the biggest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States, announced on Thursday it is pulling as many as 185,000 older youngsters from the organisation as part of an effort to start its own scouting-like programme.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the move not triggered by the Boy Scouts of America's decision in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders, since Mormon-sponsored troops have remained free to operate according to their religious teachings.
Instead, the church said it wanted a new, simplified programme more closely tailored to Mormon teenagers.
Boys ages 14 to 18 will no longer participate in Boy Scouts starting next year, according to the church. The Boy Scouts said the decision would affect 130,000 teens; the church put the number at 185,000.
About 280,000 Mormon boys ages 8 to 13 will remain in the Scouts while the church continues to develop its own programme, the Mormons said. The Boy Scouts put the number at 330,000.
The loss is only a fraction of the 2.3 million youth in the Boy Scouts of America, but the organisation has been grappling with declining membership for years and has enjoyed an unusually close bond with the Mormon church for more than a century.
Joining the Boy Scouts is practically automatic among Mormon boys, with the church covering the cost of troops for congregations and strongly encouraging participation.
Boy Scouts of America spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said the organisation was saddened by the decision but understands the church's desire to customise a programme.