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About the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

Part 1

Overview Of The BSA.
BSA foundational beliefs.

boy scout hat

Boy Scout hat

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Overview of the Boy Scouts of America:

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is an organization, composed almost entirely of volunteers, that provides "quality youth programs, including Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Venturing" to about 2.7 million boys between the ages of 7 and 20. 1 Venturing is a co-ed program introduced in 1998 for older male and female youths and young adults ages 14 to 20. The lower age limit is 13 years of age if the member has completed Grade 8).

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BSA History:

In England,  Lord Robert S.S. Baden-Powell, was referred to as "the Hero of Mafeking" because of his activity in South Africa during the Second Boer War. During 1908, he started a program of training for boys with his book "Scouting for Boys" . The book became an instant best seller. "He was later proclaimed Chief Scout of the World." 2 A number of his biographers have concluded from the available evidence that he was gay. Tim Jeal wrote:

"The available evidence points inexorably to the conclusion that Baden-Powell was a repressed homosexual." 3

There is zero evidence that he acted on his sexual orientation with either adults or minors.

While an American businessman, William D. Boyce, was visiting London in 1910, he was impressed by the good deed of a British Boy Scout and took action to bring a similar program to the U.S. IN 1911, he arranged to merge a number of existing boy's groups into a national organization. On 1910-FEB-08, a new corporation "Boy Scouts of America" was established. Ironically, one of Boyce's grandsons was gay and was thus ineligible at the time to be a member.

The BSA's home page states:

"The purpose of the Boy Scouts of America, incorporated on February 8, 1910, and chartered by Congress in 1916, is to provide an educational program for boys and young adults to build character, to train in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and to develop personal fitness." 1

The "Findings of Fact" from a DC law suit against the Boy Scouts of America found:

"Organizations such as public schools, government organizations, churches, synagogues, mosques, civic groups or groups of citizens obtain a charter from the Boy Scouts to sponsor an individual Scouting unit." 4

Churches sponsor about 60% to 70% of troops nationally and include about 55% of all of the boys in Scouting. 5

The main denominations whose congregations sponsor BSA troops are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. the LDS Church and the Mormons), the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the United Methodist Church. The first three are among the most anti-gay Christian faith groups in the U.S.

Originally, the BSA had a policy of expelling any person known to have a homosexual or bisexual orientation, whether a scout or a staff member. 4 They maintained a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy similar to that recently abandoned in the military. If gay and bisexual scouts remained "in the closet" and kept their sexual orientation secret, they were allowed to join and stay in Scouting.

These policies were originally shared by the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. and the scouting movement in other countries. However change became inevitable in some countries as public opinion improved towards the LGBT community and same-sex marriages were legalized in recent decades.

  • In 1997-MAR, Scouting in Great Britain rescinded its policy of discrimination against gay youth members and adult leaders:
  • During 2013-MAY, the BSA modified its anti-gay policy to allow openly gay youths to join and stay in Scouting until their 18th birthday. On that date, they were expelled.

  • During 2016-JUL, the national executive adopted a new policy and allowed local units to include gay adults as Scout leaders and employees.

  • During 2017-JAN, the BSA began to allow transgender boys to join as members.

As of 2017-JAN, only potential members who don't believe in a god are refused membership.

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The religious foundation of the BSA:

The BSA is viewed by many as an inclusive organization open to all boys of good character whose ages fall within certain limits. This belief appears in the BSA's own recruitment literature. In reality, the BSA regards itself as a religious/spiritual organization. In the past, they have denied membership to youth who:

  • Lack belief in the existence of a God,

  • Have a homosexual or bisexual sexual orientation, (the gender to which he is sexually attracted) and

  • Are transgender: having a gender identity (the gender that he currently identifies as) that is different from his birth-identified gender.

Some indications of the religious/spiritual foundation of the BSA are found in statements by the organization:

bullet The Venturing program involves "Instilling stable personal values firmly based on religious concepts."

bullet Boy Scout (males 11 to 17) are expected to follow the Scout Law which says, in part: "A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others."

bullet One of the purposes of Cub Scouting (7 to 10 years) is to: Positively influence character development and encourage spiritual growth."


The BSA bylaws contain the statement:

"The Boy Scouts of America maintain that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God....The Boy Scouts of America, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training."


One of the requirements of the BSA personal fitness merit badge is answer and discuss with their counselor the question:

"Are you actively involved in the religious organization of your choice and do you participate in their youth activities?"

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This topic continues in the next essay

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  1. "Boy Scout," is the BSA official home page at: 
  2. Gip Plaster, "The ultimate irony: Evidence suggests founder and 'Chief Scout of the World' may have been gay," Texas Triangle, 1998-FEB-26. Online at:
  3. Tim Jeal, "Boy-Man: The Life of Lord Baden-Powell"  
  4. "Findings of Fact..., R.D. Pool & M.S. Geller vs. Boy Scouts of America..." Commission on Human Rights, Government of the District of Columbia, 1998-MAY-1, at
  5. current news summary for 1999-AUG-12.

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Copyright © 1999 to 2017, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 
Originally published on 1999-AUG-9 
Latest updated: 2017-FEB-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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