In a statement released in support of Black Lives Matter, the Boy Scouts of America said it will require Eagle Scouts to earn a diversity and inclusion badge. It’ll examine its own role in perpetuating racism, too.
“The Boy Scouts of America stands with Black families and the Black community because we believe that Black Lives Matter,” the organization said in a letter on Scoutingwire, the organization’s official blog. “This is not a political issue; it is a human rights issue and one we all have a duty to address.”
Now, scouts must earn a diversity and inclusion merit badge to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts program. The new badge will build on existing programs that require scouts to “engage with other groups and cultures.”
The organization said it’s banned the Confederate flag for nearly 30 years, but it’ll review property names, events and insignia to “ensure that symbols of oppression are not in use today or in the future.”
“We will also continue to listen more, learn more and do more to promote a culture in which every person feels that they belong, are respected and are valued in Scouting, in their community and across America,” the scouting organization said.
Boy Scouts address recent discrimination
Boy Scouts didn’t fully integrate until after the Civil Rights Act passed — a few Southern Boy Scout councils held out until the 1970s — but the organization made way for the first black troop in 1911. Those scouts were still met with racism, though: The organization defined black scouts as “Special Troops” based on their race and considered them less-than, according to the African American Registry, an education nonprofit.
Some of the scouting program’s discriminatory policies remained in place until the last decade.
Until 2014, Boy Scouts of America banned gay children and teenagers from joining the program. One year later, the organization removed its ban on gay troop leaders and employees, though it still gives chartered organizations the right to deny adults positions based on their sexuality.
In 2019, girls were allowed to join Boy Scouts, one year after they were allowed into Cub Scouts, the scouting program for younger children.
Then, this year, the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy, and the hundreds of lawsuits it was fielding about accounts of sexual assault within the program are now on hold.
Court testimony released last year shows that over 7,800 former scout leaders are accused of sexually abusing 12,000 scouts over 72 years.