In 2000 the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts and other private organizations like them could set their own membership standards because of the first amendment right to free association. The Boy Scouts prohibit “avowed” gays from joining. A resolution passed last month will allow gay children to join the Boy Scouts starting in 2014. For some, the pace of change is too slow and for others it’s too fast, which means other scouting organizations are experiencing a boon.
For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America has had something of a monopoly on neckerchiefs, knot-tying, merit badges and all manner of backcountry skills for boys, treating snakebite and frostbite alike.
No more. The protracted debate over whether to allow gay scouts and scout leaders has angered many church leaders and parents across the political and religious spectrums. The result is a surge of enrollments in alternative outdoor and character-building programs that cater to pagans and Pentecostals and everyone in between.
“Before the Boy Scouts was founded in 1908 you had all these independent scouting groups like the Sons of Daniel Boone and the League of Woodcraft Indians,” said Jay Mechling, professor emeritus of American studies at the University of California, Davis, and the author of “On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth.” “Now we are starting to see those types of groups again.”
The market at work.