His pack meetings took place in church halls, and ceremonies were scheduled in church sanctuaries and auditoriums. His pack leaders often doubled as congregational lay leaders, and the boys were asked once a year to don their uniforms and lead a special “Scout Sunday” worship. When the boys recited the oath, the “Under God” portion no doubt resonated within their surroundings.
I was surprised, then, by The Associated Press’ story on new statistics released Wednesday that show a 6 percent membership decline in the last year — a year during which new rules were put in place to accept and protect openly gay Scouts, from Cubs to Eagles.
The story had a Dallas dateline, undoubtedly tied to the organization’s national headquarters in nearby Irving, Texas. Beyond that obvious connection, what better area in the country to find a wide array of faith groups willing and able to speak intelligently about the impact of the change on troops with which they might have alliances or sponsorship?
We hear from Scouting spokesman Deron Smith, who admitted the change might be partially responsible, but blamed the loss of thousands of boys and their families more on day-to-day time demands and the relevancy of its programs — and over the course of the last decade, not just nine months. And Smith touted the positives of the organization, as you might expect:
He pointed to several successes in 2013 for the Boy Scouts, which opened a new permanent site for its annual jamboree of Scouts from around the world and was featured on a National Geographic television series.
“Last year was a milestone year for the BSA in many ways,” he said.
He added that accepting openly gay boys “allows us to serve more kids.”
Well, not by the final count. Still, the most telling graf of the entire piece is yet to come — and without attribution, even!