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July 3, 2001

- Discrimination Against Gays Seen As Key Cause -

CHICAGO -- Hurt by its discriminatory stance against gay youth members and gay adult leaders that sets it apart from most national youth organizations, the Boy Scouts of America has suffered its largest membership loss in recent history according to the organization's newly released 2000 Annual Report. The publication says that youth membership in the organization fell 1.2
percent to 3.35 million - its lowest point since 1997. This loss is especially grave given the overall population of young people ages 5-19 has been growing during this same period, according to U.S. Census Department estimates.

"By leaving the Boy Scouts, America's families are clearly telling the Boy Scouts that discrimination is wrong and hurtful and that other youth groups are far more deserving of their support," said Michael Pirages of LiveLife, a human and family rights organization in Chicago. "It's obviously, the public disagrees with the 'new Scout law' that members be 'trustworthy, loyal and
hateful.'" The Scouts' exclusionary teachings help lead to alienation of gay youth, high rates of gay teen suicide, and foster hate crimes against gays.

Released quietly this month -- minus the usual annual presentation to the U.S. House of Representatives -- the Boy Scouts annual report shows that:

  • Youth registration dropped in five of six membership areas.
  • Webelos, the third largest division in Scouting, plummeted 3.1 percent from 857,220 to 830,305
  • Cub Scouts, representing 7 to 10 year old boys and the largest division with nearly one third of all youth members - dropped 1.4 percent to 998,207
  • Boy Scouts, the second largest division, fell 1.8 percent from 948,626 to 938,508.
  • The only good news was an increase in Venturers, an adventure program for kids ages 14 to 20 that is the second smallest division in Scouting with 233,858 members, representing less than 10 percent of all members.
  • The number of registered Boy Scout Troops and Cub Scout Packs, the two largest divisions of registered units, plunged 1.3 percent and 1 percent respectively.

"With its discriminatory practices, it's only a matter of when, not if - the Boy Scouts will cease to have a real national leadership role for youth," said Pirages. "They can choose to ignore Americans' desire for equality and non-discrimination, or they can follow their legal right and teach messages of exclusion, intolerance and hate. It's their choice."

The Boy Scouts national office didn't return calls to comment on the annual report.

Scouts Slip-sliding Away

The Boy Scouts have faced countless major setbacks recently, including:

¨ Countless United Ways, churches, schools, police departments and other organizations are distancing themselves from the Scouts, withdrawing funding and other support totaling several hundred thousand dollars. ¨ This spring, Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg stepped down from the Scout's advisory board. President Bush still serves as honorary vice president. ¨ CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" has reported on the organization's discriminatory practices and the Scout's inseparable ties with its "religious partners" who sponsor nearly half of all Scouting units, including the anti-gay conservative Mormon, United Methodist and Roman Catholic churches. For example, the Mormon Church (aka Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) sponsors about 30,000 Scout troops and packs - more than any other church or civic organization in the country. The Scouts evidently cannot change its policies without the Mormon Church's blessing. Ten of the Scout's national executive board members live in Salt Lake City, Utah, the headquarters of the Mormon Church, and are presumed to be Mormons.

¨ Last month, the American Medical Association adopted a resolution that youth groups should repeal bans against gay youth because they contribute to anxiety and depression and are bad public health policy.

¨ U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher said that sexual orientation cannot be changed and that isolation of young people can undermine their mental health and potentially result in depression and suicide.

Take Action

Americans who support equal and non-discriminatory treatment of all youth are urged to:

- Stop promoting discrimination by stop supporting the Boy Scouts. Instead support and have your children join Scouting for All, the Boys & Girls Clubs, 4-H, the YMCA, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire USA or other national organization that is open to all kids regardless of sexual orientation. E-mail for a complete list of nondiscriminatory youth organizations and contacts.

- Call their local United Way, which is the Scouts' largest funder, and ask them to cease funding any organization or division of any organization that discriminates against others based on their sexual orientation, race or religion.

Ironically, the Boy Scouts likely wouldn't exist today if it wasn't for a gay man. The founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, Lord Robert Baden-Powell, is believed by several authors and historians, to have been gay.

Based in Chicago, LiveLife fights for equality and fair treatment for America's families and children. LiveLife can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 773/769-1616.
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