New gender policy won't affect Catholic Scouting units, says committee


IRVING, Texas (CNS) — The Boy
Scouts of America’s new policy to accept members based on their gender identity
will have no impact on Scouting units sponsored by the Catholic Church, said the
National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

The Boy Scouts announced Jan. 30
that effective immediately, the Texas-based organization will determine membership
eligibility for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts on a youth’s gender identity as
indicated on the membership application. Previously, the policy based
eligibility on the gender indicated on a youth’s birth certificate.

The change in policy “has no
impact on the operation and program delivery of Scouting program(s) in Catholic-chartered
units,” said a Feb. 4 statement issued by the Catholic Scouting committee.

“Scouting serves the Catholic
Church through the charter concept, which is similar to a franchise,” it said. “The
units chartered to a Catholic institution are owned by that organization. The
BSA has stipulated that religious partners will continue to have the right to
make decisions for their units based on their religious beliefs.”

The statement was signed by
George S. Sparks, national chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting,
and Father Kevin M. Smith, a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New
York, who is national chaplain of Catholic Scouting. The statement was approved
by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston, South Carolina, who is the
episcopal liaison between Catholic Scouting and the U.S. Conference of Catholic

In announcing the membership
change, Michael Surbaugh, chief Scout executive, said the organization has been
“challenged by a very complex topic — the issue of gender identity.”
“After weeks of significant conversations” at all levels of the Scouting
organization, he said, officials decided a birth certificate is no longer
sufficient for determining eligibility for participating in Cub Scouts or Boy

“We’ve taken the
opportunity to evaluate and update our approach,” he said in a video message
posted online. “I hope you’ll join with me in embracing the opportunity to
bring Scouting to more families and children who can benefit from what our
organization has to offer.”

“This is an area that we
will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the
greatest number of youth possible all while remaining true to our core beliefs,”
Surbaugh said.

Those beliefs, he said, are
based on the Scout Oath, which begins “with duty to God,” and the Scout Law,
which ends” with a Scout’s obligation to be reverent.”

In a separate statement emailed
Feb. 7 to Catholic News Service, Effie Delimarkos, the Boy Scouts’ director of
communications, reiterated that “we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy
Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application. Our
organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the
best interest of the child.”

The organization did not say if a
specific case had prompted the policy change, but another spokesperson told CNS
that Boy Scouts’ “approach to gender identity was no longer sufficient as
communities are now interpreting gender identity differently.”

Sparks and Father Smith said in
their statement: “Scouting’s chartered organizations have the right to uphold
their own moral standards within the units they charter. The teachings of the
Catholic Church are upheld.”

About 70 percent of Boy Scout
troops are run by faith-based groups.

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