The Mormon Church has announced it will be ending its formal involvement with programs for older teens in the Boy Scouts of America, Reuters reports.
The decision comes just months after the group announced it would welcome members based on their gender identity—although the Church has maintained this is not the reason they are cutting ties.
“As part of the Church’s ongoing effort to evaluate and improve its service to families and young people worldwide, the Church will no longer [take part in the units],” the church said in a statement.
“The Church will continue to use the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs for boys and young men ages 8 through 13.”
The Mormon website also provides an FAQ section on the issue that includes the question: “Is this due to changes in Scout policy in the past few years to allow gay and transgender Scouts and leaders?”
The answer reads: “The BSA has always allowed the Church to operate its programs in ways that are consistent with our standards and beliefs, and they have been very supportive.
“This change is to address the needs of young men ages 14 to 18. The Church is always evaluating what is best for our youth and families, and will continue to do so.”
They added: “We anticipate our Cub Scout and Boy Scout units [for younger boys] will continue as they are at present.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has condemned the move, saying the change—which could affect up to 180,000 teenagers—sent a dangerous message.
"While the Boy Scouts of America and society in general move forward to support and include LGBTQ people, sadly the Mormon Church continues to send a damaging message to their own youth that being LGBTQ — or being an ally to LGBTQ people— is not of value," said HRC official, Ellen Kahn.
"It is a disservice to their own members, many of whom are moving in the direction of accepting and affirming their LGBTQ children."
The Boy Scouts of America has relaxed anti-LGBT policies in the last few years, ending a ban on openly gay people from leadership positions in 2015.
The group wrote in a statement that: “Although thousands of youth and leaders who participate in Venturing crews nationwide embrace and support the program, we recognise that not all programs are a perfect fit for all partners.
“The BSA values our ongoing partnership with the LDS Church in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programming and look forward to our continued efforts to extend the benefits of Scouting to as many youth and families as possible.”