The Boy Scouts of America’s board of directors on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to open Cub Scouts to girls next year and to establish a program by 2019 that will allow girls to become Eagle Scouts, a historic policy shift that drew immediate criticism from a rival Scouting group.
Boy Scout leaders cited the century-old organization’s desire to develop the next generation of female leaders and to allow families to participate in outdoor activities together.
“We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children,” Michael Surbaugh, chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement.
Established in 1910, the Boy Scouts have long stood on tradition, but in recent years, the organization has yielded to a changing culture by revising its admission policy to permit openly gay Scouts and adult volunteers, as well as transgender children who identify as boys to join.
Mark Hancock, chief executive officer of Trail Life USA, said the admittance of girls into the Boy Scouts of America is part of a growing “war on boys” that views the sexes as interchangeable and masculinity as something undesirable. He said the decision Wednesday is just latest step in the Boy Scouts’ progressive evolution.
“The Boy Scouts seems to have developed a pattern of making decisions that depart from their traditional values,” Mr. Hancock said. “And once you lose your way, your moral compass, the next thing to go is the courage and conviction to navigate when things get tough. And in this culture, with the gender-blurring that’s going on, I think it’s bad for boys. And I think it’s bad for girls.”
Under the plan announced Wednesday, individual Cub Scouts packs will be given the choice of expanding to include girls dens. Dens will remain single-gender.
“We strive to bring what our organization does best — developing character and leadership for young people — to as many families and youths as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders,” Mr. Surbaugh said.
Randall Stephenson, national board chairman of the Boy Scouts of America, said the group’s “record of producing leaders with high character and integrity is amazing.”
“I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization,” Mr. Stephenson said in a statement. “It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.”
The Boy Scouts said they spent months reaching out to families to find out whether they wanted the program to be opened to girls. Citing internal surveys, the Scouts said Asians and Hispanics are particularly interested in activities that include the whole family.
The Girl Scouts of the USA, however, has criticized the plan.
In a letter to the Boy Scouts in August, Girl Scouts President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan said the Boy Scouts would be better served by reaching out to “those who BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African American and Latino boys.”
“For more than 100 years, our organizations have worked in a respectful and complementary manner, and we have been mutually supportive of one another’s mission to serve America’s youth,” Ms. Hannan wrote. “It is therefore unsettling that BSA would seek to upend a paradigm that has served both boys and girls so well through the years by moving forward with a plan that would result in fundamentally undercutting Girl Scouts of the USA.”
Progressive groups, meanwhile, praised the decision as another step in the right direction.
“This is yet another step forward for the Boy Scouts of America,” Zach Wahls, co-founder of Scouts for Equality, said in a statement. “Girls and their families all across the country have been asking the BSA to allow girls to participate as full members and earn the same ranks and awards as their brothers. This change will allow local troops to decide the best approach for them and will eventually allow girls to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the decision is part of an effort to emasculate men by “taking away the whole idea of what it means to be a man.”
“This is a slippery slope. And where does it stop?” Mr. Perkins said on Fox News Radio’s “The Todd Starnes Show.” “I mean, it doesn’t stop until the Boy Scouts is a mere shadow of what it once was. And that’s where the left is headed with everything. That’s what they want to do with the culture, that’s what they want to do with the republic. They simply want the symbolism without the substance. And that’s where we’re headed.”
Enrollment in the Boy Scouts of America has been down dramatically from its peak of 6.5 million members in 1972. In 2016, registration was at 2.3 million youth members, down from 2.8 million in 2012.
Mr. Starnes said opening enrollment to girls is just another sign that it’s “over for the Boy Scouts.”
“Stick a fork in ’em, folks,” Mr. Starnes said Wednesday on his radio show. “They’re done. Just go ahead and pour water on the campfire. It’s over for the Boy Scouts of America. And it’s a sad situation, too. But this is what happens when you allow the cultural jihadists to come in and you don’t take a stand.”
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