The Mormon church said Tuesday it will sever all ties with the Boy Scouts of America at the end of 2019 and place its remaining 425,000 boys into a gospel-focused youth program it's developing. The move ends what USA Today calls a "long, symbiotic relationship," one based on shared values that has endured for more than 100 years. The announcement by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Boy Scouts didn't come as a complete surprise after the religion last year removed 185,000 boys between the ages of 14 and 18, signaling that an end to the long-time alliance was near, per the AP. Joining the Boy Scouts is practically automatic among Mormon boys, and the religion has long been the biggest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the US. The Mormon boys who will be leaving represent about 18.5% of the 2.3 million youths in the organization.
The Mormon church said in a statement the move is about creating its own youth program it can use for its increasingly global membership, but the two groups' values have been diverging of late. The Boy Scouts moved in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders and announced last year it would allow girls to join. Last week, the group said it's changing the name to Scouts BSA to account for the girls. The Mormon church opposes gay marriage, and has traditionally used separate youth programs for boys and girls. The still-to-be-developed program will likely include outdoor activities and character building similar to Boy Scouts but not be modeled after Boy Scouts or use ranks. In a statement, the BSA thanked the thousands of Mormons who've served as scout leaders, wished the religion well, and said individual Mormons who wish to stay in Boy Scouts will be integrated into other troops.