“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
– Boy Scout Oath
It was a sad but not unexpected announcement Monday afternoon that the Boy Scouts of America, the single largest youth program in the country, has declared bankruptcy as it faces a variety of child sex abuse charges and a precipitous reduction in membership.
Founded in 1907 in England by Robert Baden-Powell, a Maj. Gen.in the British Army during the Boer War in 1899, the organization was designed to promote a healthy life style and civic duty among England’s youth. Focusing on happiness and success, Baden-Powell, in his last letter to the scouts noted that happiness is more than riches and self-indulgence. “One step toward happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can enjoy life when you are a man”
“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent”
– the Scout Law
In 1909 Chicago Publisher W.D. Boyce encountered a young scout as he was trying to find his way on a foggy London street. The scout guided the lost publisher to his destination, refusing a tip for his services and noting that he was a Boy Scout and that he was doing his good turn. The experience led to the creation of the scouting program a year later in the USA which became the genesis of the largest scouting organization in the world- Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
What started out as a simple goal 113 years ago became muddled as BSA began to take on a variety of projects and goals that had nothing to do with being physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight. In an effort to become more relevant the organization’s leaders, many at the top echelons of the multimillion-dollar organization, focused on membership, not outcome.
The result of this focus on quantity versus quality resulted in an organization that lost sight of its goals and subsequently its core membership of conservative family oriented organizations. Responding to social pressures, aided by numerous expensive lawsuits, the BSA incorporated openly homosexual leaders in its ranks despite the strong opposition from churches - the primary supporters of the program in membership, facilities and public support - that subsequently deserted BSA and started similar groups.
As membership continued to decline Boy Scouts of America opened membership to girls, which resulted in trademark lawsuits and bad publicity, not to mention the confusion caused by the name ‘Boy’ Scouts.
The culmination of these expenses and the heavy financial burden resulting from the sex abuse charges, forced the BSA to seek protection of bankruptcy this week. The reasons given are to consolidate its liabilities and, according to its public relations material, to assure equitable settlement for the alleged victims.
There is a good chance that BSA would be a better organization today if it had stayed true to its goals of high moral character rather than bend to the wind of social relevance.
The standards of the original scouting program were simple, identifiable and open to any young man willing to adapt. Sadly, it has been the Boy Scouts of America that has attempted to adapt and has failed as a result.
Re-establishing the goals of honor and duty for America’s youth, desperately needed in a chaotic world of self-indulgence and moral decline, requires a new path and a strong moral compass.