The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced Monday that those who wish to be recognized as elite Eagle Scouts will have to earn a “diversity and inclusion” merit badge, which is designed specifically in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The Boy Scouts of America stands with black families and the black community because we believe that Black Lives Matter,” the BSA said in a letter to scouting families. “This is not a political issue; it is a human rights issue and one we all have a duty to address.”
To earn the new merit badge, Scouts will need to “learn about and engage with other groups and cultures to increase understanding and spur positive action”—similar to what’s required for existing ones such as the “American Cultures” and “Citizenship in the Community” merit badges, the BSA explained.
In addition to the inclusion of the new badge, the BSA will begin reviewing its scouting program to make sure it “promotes racial equality and denounces racism, discrimination, inequality, and injustice.”
The Irving, Texas-based organization will also require all its employees to undergo “diversity and inclusion” training and start reviewing all “property names, events, and insignia, in partnership with local councils,” in an effort to “build on and enhance” its decades-long ban on the use of the Confederate flag and make sure “symbols of oppression” are not in use now or in the future.
“These are our next steps but certainly not our last,” the letter read.
Earlier this year, the BSA sought bankruptcy protection as its finances fell apart, largely due to hundreds of sexual abuse claims dating back several decades, from men who were allegedly violated as youngsters by Scout leaders.
Despite its Christian-oriented historical roots, the Boy Scouts has been known for a series of controversial decisions in recent years. In 2013, the organization voted to end its century-old ban on openly gay scouts, while leaving in place the ban on gay Scout leaders. Two years later, the restriction on gay Scout leaders was also removed, except for some faith-based charter organizations.
In 2017, the BSA began opening membership based on gender identity, meaning transgender children who identify as boys would be accepted into its Scouting program. Last February, girls were permitted to join the troops, and the organization modified its name to “Scouts BSA” to reflect the change.
The BSA has approximately 2.2 million youth members between the ages of 5 and 21 and approximately 800,000 volunteers in local councils throughout the United States and its territories, according to the organization’s website. More than 130 million young men and women have participated in the BSA’s youth programs since its founding in 1910.