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Rapid response

"Rapid response" Continued...

Issue: "Bright or rotten idea?," Oct. 5, 2013

Membership declines will no doubt increase financial pressures. Massive cost overruns at Summit Bechtel Reserve have turned a project originally budgeted for around $150 million into one that will likely exceed $500 million by the end of 2014. 

These pressures forced Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock, the highest ranking professional Scouter, to announce in August the Scouts would raise dues 60 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Currently, annual dues are $15 per Scout. The dues will rise to $24 next year. Brock also said this was the first dues increase since 2010. BSA spokesman Deron Smith said “technology” and “insurance” had also increased the “cost of doing business.”  

Reporting by WORLD and other news organizations indicates that salaries of senior executives also played a role in the increased costs. According to the Reuters news service, spending on salaries, insurance, and programs by the national headquarters nearly doubled between 2003 and 2012. By 2011, the average compensation of the top five BSA employees had ballooned to $696,862.  

Whatever the causes, the timing of this dues increase could hardly be worse for the Boy Scouts. The dues increase is also sure to hurt the BSA’s back-to-school recruiting efforts, called the “Fall Round-Up,” which takes place in most cities around the country in September.

Brock asserted in his announcement that, despite the dues increase, “the Boy Scouts of America maintains a strong financial position.”  It’s hard to say, though, how long that will last given current trends. Some local councils are barely solvent. The Los Angeles Council, for example, ran a deficit of $3.25 million in 2011, and since 2001 has lost more than $13 million, according to a Reuters investigation.  

The question many inside and outside the Scouting movement have is this: What’s next for the Boy Scouts? Will it eventually allow homosexual leaders? How far down the slippery slope will it go?

“Frankly, we feel like the membership decision is a first step,” said Steve Lemke, provost at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary who chaired the Resolutions Committee. “Our concern is about the direction and the orientation, the trajectory of the Boy Scouts. They seem to be going in a way that politicizes the whole membership question. It also brings a sexual dimension that wasn’t there before.”

While conservative Christians are leaving Scouting, liberal voices are becoming bolder. In June, Caterpillar Corporation announced it would stop giving money to the Scouts because the new policy had not gone far enough. The incoming president of the BSA, the top volunteer leader in Scouting, is Randall Stephenson, CEO of telecommunications giant AT&T. He has long been on the record as being in favor of homosexual leadership for the BSA. In 2012, he told the Dallas Voice, a gay newspaper, that he was committed to changing the policy.

Despite these developments, or perhaps because of them, Stemberger insisted that Trail Life USA is “not an anti-BSA organization. We’re not an anti-anything organization. We honor the legacy of the Boy Scouts of America and the contributions it has made to us and our families. The men and boys we have left behind are not our opponents. They are our brothers and our friends. I encourage you to interact with them with charity and good faith.”  

But, he added, “many of us feel anger and betrayal.” He said charity requires him to “continue to expose the real dangers and risks that the new membership policy poses to boys. Real men value integrity over institutions.”

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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