News and Analysis

Boy Scouts Want To Include Everyone, But Now No One Wants To Join

Between 2019 and 2021, the Boy Scouts lost close to half its membership.

   DailyWire.com
Robb Reece. Getty Images. A troop of young, Weblo boy scouts salute during an America flag ceremony at their camp in Colorado.
Robb Reece. Getty Images.

What’s in a name? When you’re a boy scout, the answer is, not very much.

The once respected club for boys has been in decline for years and as of this week’s rebranding announcement, it could be the final death knell for the more than century old organization. 

Boy Scouts is no longer called Boy Scouts. The rebrand is meant to attract more girls to join, but in reality, the change may inspire neither to have any interest. 

The national scouting organization underwent a major change in 2018 when it started allowing girls to join the Cub Scouts, which is for children aged 7 to 10. The following year, the Boy Scouts program for older kids ages 11 to 17 began admitting young women.

The new name will reflect these changes as the group, which formerly switched to “Scouts BSA” will now rebrand as “Scouting America,” effective February 8, 2025, the 115th anniversary of the organization.

BSA President and CEO Roger A. Krone said the name change was made in part to encourage girls to join the program since it will no longer have the name “boy” in it. 

“While this may be a surprise to some of you, for us this is a straightforward evolution and the next natural step in ensuring all American youth feel welcomed and recognized in an organization that is meant to serve all Americans,” Krone said in a press release about the name change, per CNN.

The CEO added that the change will not alter the organization’s mission of preparing “young people over their lives to make ethical and moral choices by instilling the scout oath, and the scout law. America’s values are scouting values.”

This change is meant to be inclusive, but the more BSA waters down the rules and regulations to welcome everyone, the less anyone will want to be part of it. 

Drama in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) organization has been going on for years. In 1991, the parents of Margot Goldstein (nee Mankes) sued the club for sex-based discrimination when their daughter wasn’t allowed to attend an all-boys sleep-away camp. 

No one noticed Goldstein had joined until it was time for camp, and afterwards, she was kicked out of her cub scout pack for being female, which went against scout bylaws. “I didn’t understand at 8 years old why it was such a big deal that I was a girl,” told Time in 2017, the same year the organization started allowing girls to join. “How is a parent supposed to say, ‘Because you’re a girl they don’t think you’re capable of this thing?’”

The young girl had apparently joined her local Girl Scout troop but was “bored” there.

Compare the statements made by a BSA spokesperson in 1991 to those made today. When the Goldstein’s case was making national headlines, Blake Lewis said, “Our feeling is that the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts were specifically designed to meet the needs for young boys. And the needs for young boys are very different from young girls.”

What was obvious to most people in the late 90s has since fallen out of fashion. Now girls can be Boy Scouts, which aren’t even Boy Scouts. The distinction between the needs of boys and girls has been removed, making the program attractive to fewer would-be scouts.

The organization was founded by Robert Baden-Powell in England in 1907. The Boy Scouts of America was then established in 1910 across the pond.

(Original Caption) Colonel Roosevelt is shown with the group of Boy Scouts of Nassau County, to whom he presented War emblems for their great work in the Liberty Loan campaign. The medals were presented at the Colonel's Home at Sagamore Hill. The medals went to boys who sold bonds in ten or more homes. The Boys sold about $100,000,000 of the bonds throughout the country, according to the reports. There were about 8,000,000 subscribers to the Loan and of these, the boys placed about 400,000 or one twentieth. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

A 1917 pamphlet described Boy Scouts as “nothing less than applied Christianity.” As the pamphlet states:

“We aim for the practice of Christianity in their everyday life and dealings, and not merely the profession of its theology on Sundays. … There is a vast reserve of loyal patriotism and Christian spirit lying dormant in our nation to-day, mainly because it sees no direct opportunity for expressing itself. … In this joyous brotherhood there is vast opportunity open to all. … It gives every man his chance of service for his fellow-men and for God.”

Patriotism, responsibility, duty to God — these concepts have all been shoved to the side in favor of inclusion. And in trying to please everyone, BSA is really pleasing no one.

Even budging on gender requirements wasn’t enough for the critics. As of 2017, the organization started allowing transgender-identifying youth to join scout ranks. This change came as the result of another lawsuit, this one from another New Jersey scout who was allegedly kicked out of a troop for identifying as trans.

“We’ve taken the opportunity to evaluate and update our approach,” Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said of the rules update. “I hope you’ll join with me in embracing the opportunity to bring scouting to more families and children who can benefit from what our organization has to offer.”

He added, “This is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of scouting to the greatest number of youth possible all while remaining true to our core beliefs.”

The organization began allowing gay youth in 2013 and also lifted a ban on gay adult leaders in 2015. 

Now, everyone is invited — girls, boys, boys who believe they are girls, and girls who believe they are boys. Anyone who is gay. So why has membership been on the decline?

Like so many other large organizations, BSA was plagued with a sexual abuse scandal which eventually resulted in their filing for bankruptcy protection in 2020. The group has since sold or mortgaged almost all their assets in an effort to pay a $2.5 billion settlement over the sex abuse claims.

With that came a steep decline in boys (and girls) signing up to join.

Between 2019 and 2021, the Boy Scouts lost close to half its membership. BSA’s Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA programs went from 1.97 million in 2019 to 1.12 million in 2020, representing a 43% decline, per AP. That number dropped even lower to 762,000 in 2021.

For comparison’s sake, in the 1970s, scout membership was as high as 5 million.

Some of this will likely be blamed on the pandemic, which certainly contributed. But that’s not the whole story. Boy Scouts have become a pale imitation of what they once were. 

As BSA allows everyone in, and continues establishing itself as an inclusion-focused club that anyone can join, they shouldn’t be surprised when no one does.

It can best be summed up by a tweet from Georgia-based representative Andrew Clyde. He wrote of the rebrand, “Wokeness destroys everything it touches.”

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