Mormon church pulling high school-age boys from Boy Scouts

In the latest separation of church and Scouts, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will begin cutting its support of programs for high school-age Boy Scouts, the church announced Thursday.

In undoing a longstanding bond between Mormons and Scout programs for the church’s older males, LDS officials said the decision stemmed from a desire to provide more Mormon-specific options for teens worldwide — and not from the Scouts’ increasingly liberal stance on social issues, including gender identity.

“This change will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men,” according to a statement from the Utah-based church.

The announcement comes on the heels of a decision by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas to begin severing ties with Girl Scouts. The Catholic archdiocese said it was switching its support to a Christian-based scouting program, American Heritage Girls.

American Heritage Girls, founded in 1995, has become an option for those who say the Girl Scouts have become too liberal and have relationships with organizations that support abortion rights and do not share traditional family values — allegations the Girl Scouts deny.

About 180,000 Mormon church members ages 14 to 18 are currently enrolled in a Boy Scout program called Varsity and Venturing. The church said it will phase out its participation in that program but will continue to enroll 8- to 13-year-old boys in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

LDS congregations automatically enroll boys of all ages as Scouts, accounting for about 17 percent of Boy Scouts of America membership.

But the Varsity and Venturing program has been “historically difficult to implement within the…

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