Citing legal and community changes, the Boy Scouts of America have said self-declared gender identity now determines youth eligibility for its scouting programs.
The move could add new difficulties for Catholic
sponsors of scout troops trying to adapt to the organization’s
relatively new policy on homosexuality.
“Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy
Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the
application,” the Boy Scouts of America said Jan. 30.
The statement said its local councils will “help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child.”
The statement said Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting are “specifically
designed to meet the needs of boys.” In previous years, the
organizations have used individuals’ birth certificates to determine
whether they are eligible for single-sex programs.
“However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and
state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws
vary widely from state to state,” the statement said.
The new policy comes after a transgender child in New Jersey was
asked to leave the Cub Scouts late last year. The child's pack was
hosted by Immaculate Conception parish in Secaucus. The child had told
CNN that “it's not fair because my friends get to do it, but I can't.”
CNA contacted the National Catholic Committee on Scouting for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.
The Boy Scouts of America had announced in July 2015 that it would
adopt a non-discrimination policy allowing homosexuals to be scout
leaders and volunteers.
The decision promised that churches with
objections to homosexual behavior could set their own standards for
Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck, himself a former boy scout, in summer
2015 reluctantly told his North Dakota diocese to disaffiliate from the
Boy Scouts of America due to the legal risks and the moral confusion
its leadership policy could cause for Catholics.
He said the policy could risk lawsuits for church-sponsored troops
that attempt to hold their leaders and volunteers to Catholic moral
Bishop Kagan lamented the goals of those who sought the policy change
to “redefine what is acceptable and unacceptable in society.”
At the same time, the bishop suggested that the Boy Scouts of America
would not be able to defend the previous policy in court given trends
in the American legal system.
However, Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, a leading member of
the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, had recommended “cautious
optimism” towards that policy change, voicing hope that Catholic
churches could still use Boy Scouts of America programs in a way
consistent with Church teaching.
He said Catholic-chartered scouting units are “the only way we can
have a direct influence” on Catholic youth involved in scouting.
At the same time, the bishop acknowledged there is no way Catholics
can control the material in Boy Scout programs, merit badge material,
and its Boys’ Life magazine.
Bishop Kagan recommended alternatives to the Boy Scouts, enumerating
the Federation of North American Explorers, the Columbian Squires, and
Trail Life USA. He also recommended alternatives to the Girl Scouts,
listing American Heritage Girls, Little Flowers’ Girls Clubs, and the
Federation of North American Explorers.
There are about 2.3 million members of Boy Scouts of America groups
between the ages of 7 and 21.
President Donald Trump’s nominee for
Secretary of State, Rex W. Tillerson, is a past national president of
the Boy Scouts of America and served on its executive board in 2013 when
it voted to lift the ban on homosexual scouts, The New York Times