Boy Scouts’ Ranks Drop After Year of Policy Change
The Boy Scouts of America said Wednesday that it lost 6 percent of its membership after an often-bruising year in which it announced it would accept openly gay boys for the first time, over the objections of some participants who eventually left the organization.
The organization’s national leadership voted in May to accept openly gay boys for the first time, while continuing to exclude gay leaders. That policy change, while lauded by gay-rights groups, angered conservatives and some members who consider homosexuality a sin and a violation of Scouting values.
BSA spokesman Deron Smith said Wednesday that the 2013 decline could partially be attributed to that change, but also other issues that have caused slight declines in membership over the last decade.
"There are many factors that go into a family’s decision to join Scouting and it’s impossible to point to any single factor that influences our membership numbers," Smith said in an email. "This includes, but is not limited to, the limited amount of discretional time and parents wanting relevant programs for their kids."
With nearly 2.5 million youth and almost 1 million adults, Scouting remains a significant force in communities across the United States, even though its membership has slowly, but steadily declined over the last decade.
The new policy says youths cannot be removed from the ranks of the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts or Venturers program solely due to sexual orientation. About 60 percent of the 1,400 voting members of BSA’s National Council approved the change at a meeting in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, near BSA’s national headquarters in Irving, Texas.