When the Boy Scouts of America decided to hold their annual Jamboree event at a new site in West Virginia, the change of location was not meant to be merely cosmetic.
The new setting is considerably different from the flat army base used for previous Jamborees, and includes wooded hills for hiking and rivers for whitewater rafting.
And it all comes with a physical requirement: for the first time, scouts will have to be below a 40 on the BMI scale – or “very severely obese” – to attend. Those between 32 and 39.99 will have to provide additional medical information.
The new site is deliberately spread out to encourage scouts to walk around on foot, and BSA officials say the emphasis is crucial considering America’s child obesity epidemic.
Dan McCarthy, director of the Boy Scouts’ Summit Group, told Fox News that the new requirement “has motivated an enormous return in terms of both kids and adults getting serious about improving their health.”
But the BMI standard has sparked condemnation from national fat-acceptance groups, who “deplored” the decision.
“There are boy scouts who are heavier than average but extremely fit and capable of strenuous physical activity,” said Miriam Berg, president of the Council of Size and Weight Discrimination.
“All of the larger scouts who were rejected simply because of the number on a scale are probably feeling rather bad about themselves and their abilities.”
Some bloggers were similarly outraged at the Boy Scouts.
“Frankly, it creates a universalizing concept of fat kids that is simply inaccurate and more than that, harmful,” wrote xojane.com contributor Lesley Kinzel.
And on Twitter, a connection was frequently made to the Boy Scouts’ former ban on openly gay members:
Oh great. The Boy Scouts transition away from homophobia, right to fat shaming. Eyeroll. http://t.co/9QDnoZUjIk
— Rachel Fauber (@fauberrs) July 16, 2013
Could the BoyScouts be anymore Arian? Now they want to exclude obese scouts from participating in their jamboree. No gays, no fat kids. WTF? — Bonnie Ausburn (@bonnie_ausburn) July 16, 2013
Former Boy Scout and Daily Caller opinion editor Jordan Bloom had his own take on the matter, however.
As someone who saw fat kids occasionally pass out at boy scout camp, I’m not as outraged as I’m told to be about this http://t.co/xOvQs3wUBK
— Jordan (@j_arthur_bloom) July 16, 2013