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Boy Scouts’ membership drops after year of policy change

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Richard W. Rodriguez, AP FILE - Boy Scouts (from  left): Joshua Kusterer, 12, Nach Mitschke, 6, and Wyatt Mitschke, 4, salute as they recite the pledge of allegiance during the “Save Our Scouts” prayer vigil and rally on Feb. 6, 2013, outside the Boy Scouts of America National Headquarters in Dallas, Texas, in opposition to openly gay scouts.

Richard W. Rodriguez, AP
FILE – Boy Scouts (from left): Joshua Kusterer, 12, Nach Mitschke, 6, and Wyatt Mitschke, 4, salute as they recite the pledge of allegiance during the “Save Our Scouts” prayer vigil and rally on Feb. 6, 2013, outside the Boy Scouts of America National Headquarters in Dallas, Texas, in opposition to openly gay scouts.

DALLAS — 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.

BSA made the change as it faced mounting public pressure in a nation that is growing more accepting of gays and gay marriage. While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints backed BSA, the Southern Baptist Convention expressed its disapproval and left it to individual churches to decide whether to remain with the Boy Scouts.

A small number of Scouts eventually left over disagreements about homosexuality. Some went to Trail Life USA, an organization set up after the change by conservatives and Christian groups. Trail Life claimed about 425 “pre-chartered” groups around the country late last year. It has not said how many youth members it has.

BSA, which is a century-old organization, has faced a longer-term challenge to stay relevant with today’s youth and their parents. Smith said the organization recorded a 4 percent membership decline between 2011 and 2012, with similar declines in some of the years during the last decade.

He pointed to several successes in 2013 for the Boy Scouts, which opened a new permanent site for its annual jamboree of Scouts from around the world and was featured on a National Geographic television series.

“Last year was a milestone year for the BSA in many ways,” he said.

He added that accepting openly gay boys “allows us to serve more kids.”

Already, one openly gay Scout who was denied his Eagle award due to his sexual orientation has been allowed to achieve Scouting’s highest rank. Pascal Tessier of Kensington, Md., was named an Eagle Scout this week.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout who founded the advocacy group Scouts for Equality, said he’s heard of no incidents of potential discrimination since the policy went into effect. He said suggestions last year of a mass exodus due to the policy change appear to have been overblown.

“We believe in the importance of Scouting,” Wahls said. “And we look forward to working with the BSA after all this is behind us to look for ways to boost membership again.”

But John Stemberger, Trail Life’s founder, accused the Scouts of hiding the true impact of the policy and predicted BSA would eventually open its doors to gay leaders as well.

“There’s not a whole lot of people that are calling it straight in terms of what the policy is and what it does,” he said.

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93 more reader comments:

  1. Good riddance to the people that left

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:49pm
  2. Good. Scouts shouldn’t be bigots.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:49pm
  3. It’s an outdated institution anyway.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:49pm
  4. well if they dont like it they needed to go anyway

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:49pm
  5. If I were them I’d be fine with that, weeds out the idiots.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:50pm
  6. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:50pm
  7. Not hearing a problem

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:52pm
  8. Good to know only 6% were hateful bigots.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:53pm
  9. that’s less than I would have thought

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:53pm
  10. Oh well… F them. We don’t need organizations that teach hate… or useless knot-tying skills.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:53pm
  11. Not all of the knot-tying skills are useless. ;-) *wink wink*

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:24pm
  12. I’m sure most of the decline was because of the child abuse scandal.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:54pm
  13. No, that's the Catholic Church.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:14pm
  14. Wrong. It's also the BSA. They released 1,200 files of sexual abuse they covered up, amounting to 5,000 sexual abuse cases.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:48pm
  15. i wouldn't be surprised if that were the case...but then you have to consider there are many who conflate homosexuality and pedophilia. -_-

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:21am
  16. Oh please, I lost my virginity in boy scouts… there have ALWAYS been gay scouts. What a bunch of loser crybabies.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:57pm
  17. No surprise. The homophobic and freaked out parents will overreact and pull their kids out for fear they get contaminated and turn gay. Things will level out after awhile when people see that nothing has really changed except more kids can be a part of their organization.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:57pm
  18. They’ll easily recoup that number soon now that weird it’s getting out that they’ll accept gay scouts

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:57pm
  19. GOOD!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:58pm
  20. well at least all the trash left of it’s own accord, now only the true Scouts are left

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:58pm
  21. *word

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:58pm
  22. Ooh, Well!!! #CYaL8rByeBi

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:58pm
  23. 6% percent of bigot parents no prob we will get 6 back of awesome scouts

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:59pm
  24. Cool.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:00pm
  25. its not the kids, its the homophobic parents

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:01pm
  26. Exactly! The kids could probably have cared less!

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:19pm
  27. great

    Replied on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 4:27am
  28. They lost memberships not because they began to accept openly gay boys but because people realized how bigoted the boy scouts were being.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:02pm
  29. Anyone who wants their Christian religion bigotry can have their children join a organization like Royal Rangers. I survived it.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:02pm
  30. Good!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:02pm
  31. Good! Weed out the bigots!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:06pm
  32. That’s too bad, it’s the scouts that are suffering. Not only are they missing out on scout activities, but they have such hateful parents.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:07pm
  33. The level of open and unabashed bigotry still truly astonishes me. I wonder how they’d feel if gay Boy Scout parents became offended because they couldn’t tolerate religious scouts. Somehow, it’s ok to be a bigot on this issue and that is NOTHING LESS than two faced

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:08pm
  34. That’s because they were promoting and cultivating homophobia!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:09pm
  35. Hateful parents

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:15pm
  36. Bye bye bigots

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:19pm
  37. Isn’t the boyscouts kinda stupied in this day and age?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:19pm
  38. The catholic church today accepts gays and they should this is stupid be who you are if you gay you gay its your right to be …

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:27pm
  39. I don’t think these 5% will be missed. Anyway, I would dare to argue that more people would had left if they continued to discriminate.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:28pm
  40. Its because many of them accept gays its a popular thing these days

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:29pm
  41. people are stupid

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:30pm
  42. Good.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:31pm
  43. I agree they are

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:31pm
  44. 6% of gay bashing brats gone – GOOD

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:42pm
  45. It’s the homophobic parents – not the children….grow the hell up and set better examples for your young boys so they become great men !

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:42pm
  46. oh no the bigoted parents took their kids out in other news water is wet

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:43pm
  47. KEEP THE BOYSCOUTS ALIVE AND GOING PLEASE!!!! I PLAN ON ENROLLING MY SON WHEN HE IS OLD ENOUGH.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:43pm
  48. and once these bigots realize that its not the homosexuals they need to worry about, then membership will grow once again!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:47pm
  49. Its to easy to hate

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:50pm
  50. Things will get better just takes time . the boy scouts did the right thing . oh and there have always been gay scouts and there always will be. Nice to see that they no longer have to fear being ostracized.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 11:59pm
  51. A 6% loss of bigots should be celebrated.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:15am
  52. I’d really be interested in knowing reasons, Since Gay scouts can’t grow up to be gay scout leaders I’d pull my child out.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:17am
  53. So what?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:17am
  54. homophobics im not sure thats the problem…lack of interests its change up alot its not video game its real life…im sure been gays in boyscouts for many years….just dont think people ever faced it seems to be lots of news media having gays in spotlight…states in gay marriage bans….r gays in boyscouts wearing skirts dresses…

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:18am
  55. Too bad so many kids are missing out on this experience and instead are being taught hate by homophobic adults. Shame on them!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:27am
  56. That sucks memberships went down but as stated its been declining over the past decade by 4-5% every year so in reality it only made them lose an additional 1% of memberships. They should have started accepting openly gay members over a decade ago. That way I wouldn’t have had to leave the organization when I came out. Since I was Trustworthy, the first point of the Scout Law, which every scout is supposed to live their life by I didn’t feel I could be part of an organization where I would have to LIE about my sexual orientation if I wanted to continue being a member. Keep in mind I lived in one of the cities continually listed top ten most accepting LGBT places in America every year. I had already completed all the requirements for my Eagle Rank including the Eagle Project except the Board of Review. Since I came out before this policy change though I can’t retroactively get my Eagle Rank. I think that is BS. The only reason I came out was because I was following what I had been taught in scouting. So sorry I am a honest person and didn’t lie just because I agree with one of Scoutings policies, yet another point of the Scout Law I am following Obedient.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:30am
  57. Good riddance

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:30am
  58. Good the homophobes are leaving. Now it will be just the kids and straight leaders who are interested in….wait for it……. scouting. amazing!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:34am
  59. So let it drop. If the higher involvement was based on bigotry, it is just healthy that the attendence drops.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:36am
  60. Why membership droped is there are ppl that have a had for gays and what to spreed that hate to there kids.I think that is wrong for ppl to show there kids that hate is right and love is wrong.There i said what alot of ppl are thinking.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:38am
  61. My son is in scouts. I think it’s a great program for him… but it will become increasingly difficult for him and I to enjoy it. I turned down a leadership role (a month after accepting it… sorry) because I came out trans. As I transition, I expect the most visceral reactions from this group, even though we’re in a fairly liberal area.

    Accepting LGB kids (and not trans boys or LGBT+ parents) is not nearly enough. You’ll keep those who come out. You’ll even gain a few… but you’ll lose the bigots without gaining support from the LGBT+ community.

    In other words…. go figure.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:41am
  62. bigotry is shamefull, don’t NO H8 Campaign

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:42am
  63. Many parents I bet were unaware of the scouts values. However they made a small turn towards openness and inclusion they turned out as a rather dusty club. Maybe that’s why..?

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:48am
  64. Oh well….

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:54am
  65. And the group needs to die until they accept Gay old and young …. The BULLSHIT of saying you can be a member till you are a certain age is BULLSHIT .

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 1:07am
  66. Or because boy scouts are lame…

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 1:22am
  67. that’s Texas for you.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 1:33am
  68. That just means they are weeding out the unfortunate kids whose bigoted parents are teaching them hate.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 1:39am
  69. If it rid them of homophobes and haters then it’s cause to celebrate.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 2:09am
  70. They lost sons of fearful and small minded parents

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 2:16am
  71. Adam Jones..from reading what you wrote, you epitomize a good scout. In my mind you are an honorary Eagle. My son is 14 and is a Star. I reinforce the wonderful things about scouting, but also make sure he understands about the discrimination. It is contrary to everything that scouting stands for.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 2:21am
  72. 6%? that’s not even worth noting. 6% of 600 people is only 35. So, its not really anything to brag about.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 2:32am
  73. Good hope they lost the haters and idiots who will teach their kids prejudice and hate anyway

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 2:48am
  74. If a kid wants to learn survival skills and knowledge of the wilderness and all the other things that scouts do who cares what the sexual preference is. It’s a kid who would rather be outside then on the computer or using the Xbox,

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 3:07am
  75. Having homosexual kids in scouts won’t change anything since they have always been there, they just didn’t say anything

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 3:11am
  76. I’ll bet it’s some homophobic parents being idiots! That or the child abuse scandal >_>

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 3:14am
  77. Just makes the Eagle Scout rank more rare. I say, everyone is equal!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 3:36am
  78. sad that parents teach the differance..instead of people are people,who gives a shit.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 3:41am
  79. Leadership = Tolerance. All who left, do not deserve to be shown the way of a true leader. Scouting is the way of the future. We need not to comb intolerance into the ranks of Eagle Scouting’s top 5%

    I kinda pity the kids their future upbringing of silliness that quite obviously is happening with this loss of membership, however.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 4:02am
  80. The parents who are homophobic….your child is losing this right of passage. Not you.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 4:25am
  81. The stupidest part is that most of those kids won’t realize they may be gay until Explorers. Go ahead stupid parents, punish the boys for your bigotryl

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 4:38am
  82. Of course it dropped. Bigoted churches have pulled out.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 6:55am
  83. All the Haters & Bigots running to there Closets !

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:23am
  84. hitlerjugends

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:49am
  85. trust me the kids who did not join are the ones you didn’t want anyway.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 7:56am
  86. More proof that being locked up a prison is Massachusetts is better than being a boy scout in America.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 8:10am
  87. The six percent that they lost was caused more from the adult sector than from the boys themselves .

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 9:56am
  88. Institutionalized bigotry is a fascist tool!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:07pm
  89. Yes but tell me. Did they recruit at all or less? TV ads papers. Probably not. The leadership just sat back pouting and have not done their jobs to recruit. Get over it move on..

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 1:12pm
  90. fantastic news!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 1:14pm
  91. That’s fine if parents decide to home school their homophobes. My kids missed out on scouts because I refused to send them into that discrimination back then. So why so I care if some idiots abandon the scouts in fear.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 1:17pm
  92. Policy change in the Hitler youth FINALLY! They’ll probably call the next organization The SS!

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 1:28pm
  93. Tough. Too bad, Thumpers, Mormons, and male authoritarian bigots.

    Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 4:40pm