After the Boy Scouts of America announced that girls will soon be allowed to become Cub Scouts, several faith leaders criticized the organization for its continued embrace of pro-LGBTQ policies.
On Wednesday, BSA announced that starting next year, young girls can join Cub Scout units, known as dens. In 2019, older girls will then be allowed to join a program enabling them to earn the organization's highest rank of Eagle Scout.
"Cub Scout dens will be single-gender - all boys or all girls," the organization said in a statement. "This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single-gender model while also meeting the needs of today's families."
The organization's board of directors unanimously voted to make the historic change, which will take effect next year.
"This decision is true to the BSA's mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law," the organization's chief Scout executive, Michael Surbaugh, said in a statement. "We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children. We strive to bring what our organization does best - developing character and leadership for young people - to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders."
The Boy Scouts of America "has offered co-ed programs since 1971 Exploring and the Venturing program," the press release notes.
Several Christian leaders took to social media to share their thoughts on the move. Tweeted Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:
Tweeted Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky:
The decision comes less than a year after BSA announced that it will allow girls who identify as boys to participate in scouting programs.
"Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application," the organization announced on January 31. "Our organization's local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child."
In 2015, BSA, which has about 2.3 million youth members between the ages of 7 and 21, lifted the ban on gay adults as Scout leaders. In 2013, it allowed openly gay youths to join scouting.
Earlier this year, evangelist Franklin Graham urged "all churches" to "pull out of the Boy Scouts organization completely."
"Churches should always stand with teachings that align with the Word of God," said Rev. Graham, the son of world-renowned pastor Billy Graham.
"Two years ago the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow gay leaders and then this year began to allow members based on their gender identity rather than their biological sex, opening the door to transgender members," he said. "I think...all churches-should pull out of the Boy Scouts organization completely. They need to get their younger boys out as well. I would not want my child or grandchild to be influenced by the lifestyle of a gay Scout Leader that goes against God's design for creation."