In 2000, the country finally learned of the lengths to which BSA would take to keep their discriminatory membership policies, when the US Supreme Court ruled in Dale. Companies, public officials and communities had been made aware of BSA's policies as early as 1992 (with the Curran case). Many of these took action
to distance and/or disassociate themselves from BSA between 1992 and 2000. However, the national media spotlight revolving around James Dale educated the millions of parents of young children and those who would be parents in the next few years.
Fifteen years after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of James Dale (1998), BSA is feeling the effect of its reluctance to be an organization open to All boys
-- as it promised the American people in 1910.
For the year ending December 31, 2012, BSA has lost over 643,566 registered Cub Scouts since 1998. Total youth membership in BSA's traditional programs has declined by approximately 27% (965,244 members), since 1997!
Please remember that for
BSA's traditional Scouting program to expand, it requires a continuous stream of youth through the Cub Scouting program. For the year ending in 2012, the number of registered Cub Scouts reportedly fell to 1,528,421. For the past fourteen years, membership in Cub Scouting has seen a decline each year. The year 2012 was also the TENTH straight year in a row, since the mid-1980's, that membership in Cub Scouting fell below 2 million! And that's after BSA expanded Cub Scouting from a 3-year
to a 5-year program in the 1980's!!
From a historical perspective, 2012 saw the lowest number of registered Cub Scouts
And that was with only 8-10 year-old boys, not 6-10 year-old boys!
Some BSA apologists have argued that the decline in membership is only indicative of a decline in the number of available boys. However, the US Government has not seen any such decline in this population, nor do they project any decline.
In fact, between 1983 and 2001, the youth population increased by 19% and is projected to increase another 8% between 2001-2017. Don't believe us? Then take a look at the report compiled by the US Department of Education. Even the US Census population estimates of boys from 2000-2017 show an increase in this population segment (see below). Between 1993 and 2006, there was a 7% increase in TAY and the projected increase between 2006 and 2018 is an additional 10%!
Since there has not been a decline in the birth rate for the ten years prior to 2003, the only conclusion one can make is that parents are not choosing to enroll their boys in
Cub Scouting. Can BSA's policy of discrimination be a factor in a parent's decision on enrolling his/her son in a youth organization? Many offer the increase in the number of after-school activities competing for a youth's available free time. Sports, for many children, are year-round activities. This is probably another factor to consider, but do not discount the parents.
One must consider that according to a 2012 Gallup survey, 63% of Americans are in favor agree gay or lesbian relations should be legal. Since 1977, the trend in the Pew surveys has been toward acceptance. In all of the surveys conducted, younger respondents, are much more accepting and supportive of gays and lesbians than the
generation currently in control of the BSA. The legalization and acceptance of same-sex marriages (to date, eight states and the District of Columbia recognize such marriages) further indicates the rejection of BSA's position that homosexuality is not only immoral, but disqualifies one from "being the best kind of citizen." (Each time the legality of marriage equality had to be tried in a trial court, it won.) More and more adults have
openly gay friends and when they become parents they reject the BSA's position and find alternative activities for their children.
Since the majority of parents of Cub Scout age youth are in their 20s and 30s, one could argue that because of the abundance of alternative activities for their children, they are choosing not to have their children join the BSA because of it being a private
religious youth organization which discriminates on the basis of religion and sexual orientation.
Such a conclusion causes many BSA apologists to see red, however, given the high profile (and negative at that) the BSA has maintained for the past 25+ years on their insistence that they are a private religious youth organization that has the right to discriminate, it is at least a plausible explanation. One that is equal to any other
theories, and it is at least supported by facts.
In a memo sent to paid professionals across the country in January 2004, former Chief Scout Executive Roy Williams directed them to -- "Fix Cub membership!" Williams knew -- as we do -- that a strong Cub Scouting program is crucial to the continuation of the Boy Scouts of America's traditional programs. The problem we
foresee are the methods Councils will resort to in an effort to increase their membership numbers. As some have observed, Williams' directive is for all intensive purposes a directive to councils to falsify membership records. (For past and current fraudulent practices, click here.)
While the numbers released for 2012 again don't look good for BSA, imagine what the actual numbers would really foretell. As we'll explain below, the 2012 numbers were manipulated at local and national levels to arrive at the most favorable figures, not the most accurate numbers of actual youth participating in Scouting at the end of the year.
Below is a compilation of BSA's actual membership figures from 1986 to 2012 (as of December 31 for each year). You'll notice several missing data points in the table. The reason for this is that BSA National has not been very forthcoming with numbers as it once was. If you take a look at early BSA Annual Reports, you'd be astonished by the number of facts printed in it's sometimes 800+ page detailed reports. (These are
available as either House/Senate Documents in the US Serial Set issued by the US Congressional Information Service, for the years 1917-77.)
The annual reports BSA now prepared are similar to those produced by unregulated "get rich quick" companies -- long on flowery language and pictures, but a total lack of critical and important data. They don't even include detailed financial information other non-profit organizations do.
It took us many hours of researching both our paper files and Internet postings to assemble the information presented in the below table. If we had not retained many BSA documents over the past 30 years, the below table would have been impossible to assemble. For a congressionally chartered non-profit corporation, such a reluctance to provide this historical (much less current) information is a sure sign that BSA has something to hide.
NOTES: * For those not familiar with BSA, or the changes that have occurred in the past 20 years in their programs, the above numbers can be misleading. At the start of the 1980's, Cub Scouting was a 3-year program (3rd-5th grade). By the end of the 1980's, Cub Scouting was a 5-year program (1st-5th grades), therefore, while the number of youth members in Cub Scouting increased from the 1970's to
the 1990's, one must factor in the inclusion of two new age groups previously barred from participating. In 1990, BSA created the Learning for Life program, which had previously been known as In-School Scouting, but greatly expanded and marketed it to schools. In 1998, BSA created the Venturers Program for the non-career awareness Exploring units. The career awareness Exploring units were
transferred to the LFL program. Then there is Varsity Scouting and Cub Scout Soccer . . . . but I think you get the point. (N/A = Not Applicable)
Total Available Youth(1)
Learning for Life/
(1) SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education," 1992–93 through 2005–06; and National Elementary and Secondary Enrollment Model, 1972–2005. (Table was
prepared November 2007.) As you can tell, there has been no drastic decline in the overall number of boys available to join BSA from 2000-2008. In fact, the available population of youth has been increasing since 1992 and is projected to reach 54,087,000 youth by 2017.
The BSA is notorious for inconsistent year-end membership numbers. They have a habit of revising
their numbers, even after such information had been printed in a previous annual report. The 2007 year-end numbers were taken from here. If you have any BSA documents which provide any of the missing data points, please feel free to send us an e-mail.
As previously reported, BSA has consistently refused to allow for an outside and independent audit of their membership numbers -- even after federal authorities have
investigated BSA for fraud. (This was the case in Chicago in the 70s and the Dallas and Birmingham councils are currently being investigated by the US Government for such criminal activities.) For more information about past and current BSA membership scandals, click here.
Once again, those who've been active in BSA at the district and/or council levels
know of the existence of so-called "paper units." These are units whose charters are renewed each year, but which are actually not functioning, or units chartered to schools, just to obtain liability insurance, but make no pretense of operating a Scouting program.
Why does this happen? Because BSA measures the performance of it's District and Council Scout Executives on the basis of their membership numbers! If a district has a
net loss of several units over the course of a year, it may very well mean the job for the District Executive. Thus the incentive to BSA's paid professionals to encourage fraudulent registration is their own livelihood.
While BSA National's policy of harshly measuring it's paid professionals against membership numbers invites the fraud that has been exposed in Dallas, Chicago and countless other councils, BSA National is not above massaging the numbers themselves.
For decades, it was the practice that when a organization chartered a BSA unit, they received a charter to operate the unit for one year -- starting the month they originally signed the charter papers. Since units have to annually renew their charter, units would be re-chartering throughout the year. However, in the past several years, BSA has strongly encouraged councils to renew all unit charters in December.
Remember, the only way BSA has to determine if a youth has dropped out of Scouting is when the unit renews their charter. If a previously registered youth is not listed on the unit's charter renewal papers, then BSA will no longer consider them a member. However, according to Dave Rice, "all youth who have joined during a year are counted as registered members until the end of charter, even if they have dropped
out or moved. This makes the December membership figures as large as possible, with typically the lowest numbers in January."
For example, let's assume that a unit turns in it's charter renewal papers with only 10 active youth. If the previous year they had registered 15 active youth members, the 5 who have since dropped out would still be counted in the December 31 numbers. But, if
in addition to 5 youth dropping out of the program, several new youth had joined the unit since the previous December, then these new youth would distort the numbers even further. In this scenario, BSA would count more than 15 registered youth at the end of the year for this unit, when in fact, by its own charter renewal papers, the unit only had 10 active youth in the program. And if a unit actually folds during the year, the paid
professional can simply decide to report this fact in January, rather than December.
There are other schemes available to local paid BSA professionals to increase/sustain their membership numbers. As funding from United Way and other foundations and governmental agencies are usually dependent upon the number of youth being served, the more youth a council can show in their programs means more money.
However, given BSA's history of tampering with membership figures and its continual refusal to allow for independent audits, the only conclusion one can make is that BSA's traditional membership program is failing to attract enough parents to sustain their previously attained heights! Especially when the Total Available Youth (TAY) for BSA programs has not seen a corresponding decline -- on a national basis!
Of course, taking a look at revising their exclusionary policies might give parents another reason to look at the Scouting program for their children.
What BSA has not bothered to look at is how people view openly gay and non-theistic persons. While polls indicate that a majority of Americans are in favor of equal rights for gays/lesbians," a further inspection of such polls will always reveal that Americans under the age of 30 have no problem with marriage equality for gay people, much less equal rights. For this generation, sexual orientation is not an issue for them. And it is this group who are now (and will be) parents of children BSA is trying to recruit.
Another factor that has some impact to BSA is the growing number of gay/lesbian parents raising children. Granted it is not a large percentage of the population, but these parents are the exact demographics that BSA has traditional sought. These parent also interact with other parents in daycare centers, schools, work, community groups, etc. When the prospect of enrolling their sons in BSA comes around, they have
firsthand experience with gay people and will decide against allowing their sons to join an organization which teaches discrimination and intolerance.
While BSA National is placating the older generations found in its religious chartered partners with it's stance on discrimination and exclusion. This stance is alienating itself from the very people (young parents) it is striving to attract to its
program. Thus the continuing and persistent decline in it's membership figures.
Maybe someday the folks in Irving will recognize the fact that society has changed. Hopefully it will come to this realization before the younger generations come to the conclusion that BSA is out of step with American society and irrelevant.
Please remember that BSA will (and has) say anything to make itself look good to the public. Thus, in the last few years, it has been including the membership in the Learning for Life program, whenever it reports total youth members. However, if you hear BSA trumpeting membership of more than 3 million youths, then you should recall
BSA's own sworn testimony regarding LFL:
Respondent's (BSA) Reply to Complainants' Proposed Findings of Fact - 5/18/98 ( in Roland D. Pool and Michael S. Geller v. Boy Scouts of America)
C. Learning For Life is Not Relevant
237. Learning for Life is a program of an affiliate of Boy Scouts of America which
make available an ethics curriculum. Learning for Life is not a membership organization. Neither the teachers that teach the curriculum nor the students who study it join Learning for Life or Boy Scouts. (Tr. 2465:21-2467:9 (Leet)). Learning for Life is "a whole different organization as far as the Boy Scouts of America is concerned. It doesn't operate its program the way that the traditional program is
operated." (Tr. 1113:18-114:2 (Carroll).) It is misleading for Complainants to discuss the Learning for Life program alongside the traditional Boy Scout programs. (See Complainant's Proposed Findings of Facts 7, 100, 262.)
While the above is an excerpt of a sworn statement from BSA, don't be too surprised if BSA decides to changes it's mind. Little things like truth and honor do not
seem to matter to the paid professionals who inhabit the third floor in Irving.