The Boy Scouts of America may have adopted a policy of inclusion for gay youth, but they’re drawing the line at obesity.
Before the 2013 National Scout Jamboree officially kicked off on Tuesday, the thousands of youth members and adult leaders in attendance first had to undergo a physical fitness test and obesity screening due to planned activities that require “more stamina,” reads the event’s mandatory terms.
“Think climbing, rappelling, rafting, mountain biking, and skateboarding,” states the release. “Anyone who is obese and has multiple risk factors for cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary disease would be at much greater risk of an acute cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary event imposed on them by the environmental stresses of the Summit.”
The policy sets a threshold for participation in the 10-day event at a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 31.9 or less. According to the Centers for Disease Control, anyone with a BMI of 30.0 or higher falls within the “obese” range. For applicants with BMI’s of 32.0-39.9, additional health data had to be submitted to the jamboree medical staff for review. Anyone with a BMI of 40.0 or higher was automatically rejected.
“The BMI is just one factor that will be taken into account when considering an individual’s acceptance,” states the policy description. The goal, it says, is “keeping participants safe.”
The Boy Scouts argue that the new physical requirements were necessary because this year’s jamboree in West Virginia is set to be more rigorous than in years past. But critics slammed the policy as unfair and discriminatory.
“There are boy scouts who are heavier than average but extremely fit and capable of strenuous physical activity,” said the Council on Size & Weight Discrimination in a statement to FoxNews.com. “At the same time, it is patently absurd to assume that just because a boy is thin, that means he is capable of a three-mile hike up a mountain.”
The Boy Scouts most recently made headlines for voting to welcome openly gay children, a move that suggested the organization was on a path to more inclusivity, not less. This year’s jamboree restrictions–which could exclude up to 33% of children and adolescents considered obese by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry–seem to be a step in the other direction.
Deron Smith, a spokesman for the organization, defended the jamboree policy in an email to NBC News. He said that the Boy Scouts published their height and weight requirements years ago, prompting many members to lead healthier lives.
“Teaching Scouts and Scouters how to live a sustainable life, which includes a healthy lifestyle, and the health of our participants, are important goals of the jamboree,” he said.
Smith did not have data on how many people chose not to apply because of the fitness standards.