The Boy Scouts of America held its national annual meeting in Nashville last week, one year after announcing the inclusion of openly-gay members, and despite a decline in membership over the past 10 years, the organization says it continues to serve nearly 2.5 million youth.
“The BSA has seen, in its past 10 years, some years with a decline of 2 to 4 percent in members each year with some years being flat. At the end of December, we had served nearly 2.5 million youth members and close to 960,000 adult members. This is a decrease of approximately 6 percent from the same time in 2012,” Deron Smith, director of communications for the BSA, said.
In his speech on the last day of the BSA’s National Annual Meeting on May 23, Robert Gates, former secretary of defense and former director of central intelligence and the organization’s national president, said that while he would’ve also supported the inclusion of openly gay scoutmasters, he believes the issue is contentious and would only lead to a further fracturing of the BSA, following last year’s vote to lift a ban on openly gay students becoming members.
“Given the strong feelings involved among our volunteers on both sides of this matter, I believe strongly that to reopen the membership issue or try to take last year’s decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement with the high likelihood that neither side would survive on its own. That is just a fact of life,” Gates asserted.
Smith reiterated Gates’ comments and the BSA’s stance on not succumbing to pressure from LGBT advocacy groups, such as GLAAD and Scouts for Equality, in their quest to see the organization lift its ban on openly-gay leaders.
Based on its leadership policy, in March the BSA revoked the charter of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church in Seattle, Washington, and two scouting units, Troop 98 and Pack 98, for refusing to remove openly gay scoutmaster Geoffrey McGrath.
Smith, according to Time magazine, said the BSA “had no choice but to withdraw the church’s charter as it refused to follow the terms of its chartered-organization agreement and policies.”
McGrath, according to Time, is the first openly gay adult to have his leadership status revoked by the BSA.
Pictures is Robert gates, photo from The Guardian