Scouting units sponsored by the Catholic church will not be affected by the Boy Scouts of America's (BSA) new policy to accept members based on their gender identity.
The BSA announced on Jan. 30 that it will determine membership eligibility for its programs based on the gender identity on the youth's membership application instead of the gender indicated on the youth's birth certificate.
In a statement issued on Feb. 4, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting said that the policy change "has no impact on the operation and program delivery of Scouting program(s) in Catholic-chartered units."
"Scouting serves the Catholic Church through the charter concept, which is similar to a franchise," it said, as reported by Catholic News Service. "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 committee added.
The signatories of the statement were George S. Sparks, national chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, and Fr. Kevin M. Smith, a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, who is national chaplain of Catholic Scouting.
Following the BSA's announcement, some Christian leaders urged parents to withdraw their children from the scouting organization. American Family Association President Tim Wildmon said that parents and churches should join other scouting organizations that uphold biblical teachings on gender.
"It's time to make a break and it's time to get out. They are not redeemable any longer," said Wildmon. "That would be my advice [to parents] because the Boy Scouts are incompatible with scripture at this point. You are Christian first," he added.
The BSA's decision to accept transgender members came after two other significant changes were made to its century-old policies related to sexuality.
In 2013, it started to allow openly homosexual youths to join its scouting programs. In 2015, it permitted openly gay and bisexual adults to become unit leaders and employees.
A BSA spokesperson told the Baptist Press last month that churches and religious organizations that partner with the Boy Scouts will still be allowed to make decisions based on their religious beliefs. Sparks and Smith also affirmed that the teachings of the Catholic Church are upheld despite the policy change.
According to Catholic News Service, faith-based groups run about 70 percent of Boy Scout troops.