scouts-l Mail Archive for May of 2000: Scouting for Membership Numbers
Mike Montalvo (mike_montalvo@YAHOO.COM
Sun May 14 2000 - 06:42:50 CDT
Question: Did numbers reported to Congress for Scouting include
Learning for Life?
Scouting for Membership Numbers
On April 26, 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court in consideration of Dale vs.
Boy Scouts of America was confronted with a riddle worthy of the
mythological Sphinx of ancient times.
The untangling of this riddle may hinge on consideration of the Boy
Scouts of America as being a private or public institution.
I find it puzzling that more journalists have not examined in detail
the composition of the Boy Scouts "membership" and sponsorship
Instead in this day of "newsfeeds", a falsehood often repeated soon
becomes a fact that is echoed in various publications across the
First, the often quoted membership numbers for the Boy Scouts of
America program are not correct.
Examples: LFL included in numbers below
The Boy Scouts organization has 4.5 million youth members who are
active in 139,000 "units" nationwide. Greg Shields Washington Blade
``All this shows is that there are six million people who are members
of the Boy Scouts and that not everyone agrees with all of our
policies,'' said national spokesman Gregg Shields. - Providence Journal
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA WELCOMES ITS 100 MILLIONTH MEMBER SINCE ITS
ESTABLISHMENT 90 YEARS AGO
"With more than 4.9 million youth and supported by more than 1.2
million registered adult volunteers, the Boy Scouts of America fosters
the philosophy of duty to God, country, and self, and a commitment to
others through a comprehensive program of outdoor adventure and service
projects." BSA Press Release 4/4/00
But Shields refutes this, citing current membership numbering 6.2
million that has risen by 4 percent each of the past two years. - ABC
According to the 1998 BSA annual report, there are 3,383,569 youth
"members" in the "Boy Scout" program (page 28).
Included in these numbers are 945,588 Boy Scouts (less than 1 million),
77,859 Varsity Scouts, 2,172,047 Cub Scouts & 188,075 Venturers (page
Secondly, the Boy Scouts of America runs a separate program called
"Learning for Life" which according to the same annual report has
1,373,615 youth "participants" (page 29).
The Boy Scouts and the media seem to have a propensity for merging
these two figures (see above examples) from separate programs that have
entirely different criteria for joining and leadership when discussing
It is important to note that the Boy Scouts of America have stressed in
court documents and their witnesses have insisted that Learning for
Life "participants" are not members. One reason for this could be that
Learning for Life does not have restrictions on gays being
participants. Until a couple of years ago Learning for Life did have
restrictions on gays being adult leaders in this program, but that is
no longer the case.
In the BSA's own words...
Roland D. Pool and Michael S. Geller v. Boy Scouts of America
Respondent's (BSA) Reply to Complainants' Proposed Findings of Fact -
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.)
In 1998 the Career Explorers program was redefined as being in the
Learning for Life program. In a Feb 12, 1998 memo, Jere Ratcliffe
(Chief Scout Executive) stated that a Learning for Life reorganization
(which included the movement of Career Explorers from the Scouting
program) would "Lead to increased membership in both Venturing and
Career Exploring and protect our core traditional programs from legal
Thirdly, the often quoted "nearly two-thirds" religious sponsorship by
troop numbers is misleading.
According to BSA External communications numbers for 1998 y/e,
religious sponsors accounted for approximately 55% by membership in the
BSA's "Traditional" Scouting programs.
These numbers did not factor in the Career Explorer program which was
moved during 1998. Indeed, in looking at BSA External Communication
figures prepared for the May 1997 annual meeting, Explorers had about
422,366 members. Also provided for that same meeting was a figure for
religious sponsorship of units of 51.1%.
If the Career Explorer program had not been moved to Learning for Life
in 1998, the percentage of religious sponsorship by membership would
probably have been closer to ~49%.
Another consideration is the Mormon troop sponsorship anomaly when
considering percentage by unit sponsorship.
The LDS (Mormon) Church based on BSA External Communication figures
(1998) sponsored 30,297 troops. This is nearly three times the amount
of comparably sized (by membership) troop sponsorship. For instance,
the United Methodist Church sponsored nearly 16,000 more members than
the LDS Church but only had 11,701 units. This low average membership
in units by the LDS Church results in their sponsorship of all
traditional Scouting units being about 25.8% of all units.
Lastly, it is extremely odd that the BSA is defined as a "private"
organization given it's public sponsorship by schools, fire
departments, police departments, the military and others.
Per BSA Today (Feb/Mar 98), an official Scouting publication, public
schools were the #1 sponsor in 1997 with 427,842 members. Statistics
provided for 1998 y/e listed public schools as the #3 sponsor with
362,989 members. This difference of ~65,000 presumably can be
attributed, at least partially, to the movement of Career Explorers to
Learning for Life in 1998.
Eagle Scouts who choose to serve in the various military branches can
receive higher rank grades* which equates to more money.
The military has expended millions of dollars in support such as Fort.
A.P. Hill where the Boy Scouts hold their Jamborees.
One project is currently underway that identifies BSA Councils and
trust funds receiving government grants.
There is a fair and honest solution to the dilemma in which the the Boy
Scouts of America find themselves.
Let the individual sponsoring organizations control their own
In the case of publicly sponsored units and religions that have
different sectarian beliefs than the BSA, the membership should be
* Maj. Mike Walton stated (Rec.Scouting.Issues) that this rank increase
must be made part of the initial enlistment contract upon presentation
of the Eagle Scout Card during signup. He also indicated that the rank
increase occurs after basic training is completed.
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