Will changes to the Boy Scouts help or hurt the organization?

Johnson City Press • May 7, 2018 at 12:00 AM

For an organization that was relatively unchanged for more than a century, the Boy Scouts have undergone a drastic transformation in the last five years.

In 2013, after years of pushback from organization leaders and members, openly gay youths were allowed to join the ranks. Two years later, the Boy Scouts of America ended a ban on gay leaders. Last year, the announcement came that transgender boys would be allowed to join, followed by plans to admit (gulp) girls.

The Cub Scouts program opened up to girls late last year, to the delight of more than 3,000 young girls who immediately joined, and BSA said girls 11 to 17 will be able to join next year in segregated groups on paths to become Eagle Scouts, the highest rank attainable in Scouting.

With the gender inclusivity, the program needed a new name, leaders said, and this week, it was unveiled — Scouts BSA.

The organization said the move to include girls and others previously left out of the program came after years of requests from families looking for convenient opportunities for whole family activities, especially underserved families in Hispanic and Asian communities who “prefer to participate in activities as a family.”

The first of the changes also came amid a decline in membership for the organization, which saw a fall of 10 percent between 2013 and 2016, so allowing more groups to join may be an effort to bolster participation and revenues.

Of course, the changes haven’t been well received by everyone, including some Scouting families that participated in the program because of its traditional values. After gay Scouts were permitted to join, rival group Trail Life USA formed to offer an “unapologetically Christian” alternative to the changing organization.

Also against the co-ed shift of the BSA — the Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts of the USA’s national president Kathy Hopinkah Hannan accused the Boy Scouts of America of poaching potential girls in a letter to the Boy Scouts’ president last year.

The rapid change at one of the oldest youth programs in the country has brought on some cheers, but has also ruffled quite a few feathers. That’s why we’d like to hear from you, will the changes to the Boy Scouts help or hurt the organization?

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