The Decline of the Boy Scouts Continues


The Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) has accused the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) of poaching its members.

The Dallas Morning News reported this week that “a sharply worded letter from the Girl Scouts of the USA accuses the Irving-based Boy Scouts of America of conducting a ‘covert campaign’ to recruit girls into its programs to boost the Boy Scouts’ falling membership.”

The letter came from GSUSA president Kathy Hopinkah Hannan. She wrote that the Boy Scouts are “surreptitiously testing the appeal of a girls’ offering to millennial parents.” She also wrote that the Boy Scout leaders have made “disparaging and untrue remarks” about Girl Scout programs.

“Rather than seeking to fundamentally transform BSA into a co-ed program,” she wrote, “we believe strongly that Boy Scouts should instead take steps to ensure that they are expanding the scope of their programming to all boys, including those who BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African-American and Latino boys.”

A spokesperson for the Boy Scouts contended that the BSA and the GSUSA had been in conversations regarding joint programs. Effie Delimarkos said the BSA had hoped to identify “potential areas of opportunities for alignment in the future.” However, the GSUSA’s Hannan characterized the conversations and proposals as a “hostile takeover.”

The BSA has been an American institution for more than 100 years. During that time more than 105 million men and boys have participated in the program. However, recent years have seen a significant decline in Scouting membership and revenue. In 2014 the Boy Scouts began allowing openly gay boys into Scout troops. The next year, membership fell by about 6 percent, the largest single-year decline in membership in the organization’s history. Between 2013 and 2016 (the last year for which numbers are publicly available), membership has fallen by about 10 percent.

Scouts began accepting gay adult leaders in 2015. Earlier this year, the BSA began accepting transgender boys (girls who identify themselves as boys). The Mormon Church, Scouting’s largest faith-based partner, announced in May it would pull about 185,000 boys out of the program in response to these developments.

Evangelicals have also been exiting the BSA. In 2013, a group of evangelical leaders formed Trail Life USA to provide a safe haven for boys and men who value many aspects of the Boy Scout program, but believe the pro-gay drift has gone too far. At an organizational meeting in 2013 in Nashville, Bill Bunkley, one of the group’s leaders, said, “We’re here to honor the legacy of the Boy Scouts of America but now, quite frankly, we are called in a new direction.” Since that organizational meeting, Trail Life USA has grown to nearly 30,000 members, many of them former Boy Scouts.

John Stemberger, TLUSA’s first board chair, said that Trail Life would be open to all boys, but it would be an “explicitly Christian” organization. Its motto, “Walk Worthy,” is a reference to Colossians 1:10, which exhorts Christian to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Image courtesy of gloch at iStock by Getty Images.

Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.

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  • trmlogan

    Informative article. It would’ve been good to also mention the alternative faith-based Girl Scout programs, which might be one of the reasons they are so hostile toward losing more members: American Heritage Girls and Frontier Girls.

  • James L Riggs

    What the heck? Since when has the Boy Scouts discriminated against blacks and hispanics?

    • Chuck Armstrong

      It did not say discrimination… it said underrepresented. Meaning that the majority of BoyScouts are white.

      • Dazedandbemused

        And therein lies part of the rub. The birth rate is down to levels not seen since the Great Depression, not enough to maintain zero population growth without immigration. But most immigrants are from countries where scouting was the province of small middle and upper classes, i.e., the sectors of those populations least likely to emigrate. So the BSA is left to recruit from immigrants who have no scouting tradition behind them and from an African-American community with a 70% rate of out-of-wedlock births, i.e., largely absentee fathers. The BSA’s grossly overpaid professional staff needs cash and girls are an easier sell for them than currently underrepresented minorities. But they know not what the do. Co-ed is almost done killing Scouts Canada where camps are being sold off to cover unfunded pension liabilities. The BSA will get there and right quick. Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.

    • Rebecca Berry

      I wondered this too. As I former Cub Scout leader, all boys were welcome to join.

  • Stephen Randel

    Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are both corrupted beyond rescue and redemption thanks to liberal, secular P.C. elitist “leadership” starting with Mr. Gates. Redeem the to time, go Trail Life, America!

  • James Brown

    Next you’ll be telling me the Young Men’s Christian Association [ YMCA ] isn’t Christian. smile

  • gwm68

    Thank God there are other organizations stepping up (Trail Life) that offer mentorship to help young boys become honest men. Boys Scouts are dead in the water.

  • Chris Parker

    Thank you for posting a valid alternative to the now disgraced (and soon to be renamed) Boy Scouts of America.

  • scotta

    They should change their name from boy scouts. To whatever floats your boat scouts. Lol.

  • Darcy Fuchs

    So what is the sister organization for girls?

  • brparki

    By caving to individuals and organizations which will never help or support them, BSA has managed to alienate their greatest supporters who would have stayed true.
    If only the leaders of Boy Scouts would have taken their oath seriously – Rest in peace, Boy Scouts of America.

  • Alexander Supertramp

    I am so glad are pulling are pulling out left and right . What a disgrace the boy scouts have become.

  • M

    This move and all the moves by the BSA were made solely by the national organization in Irvine, Texas. The participants and countless volunteers had no say and no voice in any of this.

    I went to a meeting hosted by the local council to watch the webinar or what ever you call it. We were to cast a vote on the issues… within a day they publicly announced the change. They didn’t have enough time to read all the responses.

    The BSA does not care about the boys and now girls. They don’t care about the countless volunteers. All they care about is the almighty dollar!

    I agree there should be a good program for girls and young ladies. However going down this road will only cause harm to the BSA and its participants.

    The only reason I still participate as a volunteer, is for the kids.

    If you’re approached to buy something from or donate to the BSA to nicely tell them no thanks and give to a local charity you can stand behind.