Internal Survey Shows Many Boy Scouts And Parents Believe Discriminatory Policy Harms Organization

Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls

Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls

Despite significant declines in membership and United Way funding, the Boy Scouts of America doubled down on their outright ban on LGBT Scouts and leaders last July, claiming its “leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization.” But a newly obtained internal survey shows that of those commenting on the issue, 97 percent of Boy Scouts and their parents said that reaffirmation “negatively impacted their loyalty.”

Scouts for Equality, the Scout alumni association dedicated to ending the ban on gay members and leaders founded by Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, obtained a copy of the BSA’s 2012 Voice of the Scout internal poll results. The documents show that loyalty to the organization dropped 11 percent over last year, driven by widespread opposition to the organization’s “membership standards policy.” In a press release, Scouts for Equality noted:

  • Of the 5,800 survey respondents who commented on the policy, 95 percent said the “reaffirmation of the membership policy negatively impacted their loyalty.” For Boy scouts and their parents, that number jumped to 97 percent.
  • BSA noted that “conservative estimates assign a 15:1 ratio of negative to positive comments about the existing membership standards policy” that prohibits gay scouts or scoutmasters.

Deron Smith, a spokesman for BSA, told ThinkProgress that the survey asked 68,441 respondents an open-ended question about why they provided the rating they did to the BSA: “Of the respondents, 91 percent did not raise membership standards as an issue or concern, and approximately 9 percent cited it as an issue or concern that impacts their loyalty to the organization. Of the 9 percent who mentioned this issue, 97 percent of Boy Scout parents and 95 percent of Cub Scout parents had negative views toward the current policy. Using an open-ended format like this indicates the membership standards policy is a factor, but it doesn’t tell you to what extent the issue impacted loyalty to the BSA, nor does it represent the beliefs of the 91 percent of respondents who did not comment on the issue. Also, this level of feedback is not unusual. Throughout the years, people involved in Scouting and others who are not related to the program have expressed their disagreement with this single policy in a variety of ways.”

The Boy Scouts of America’s National Council will decide at its May national meeting whether to change the policy. BSA is again surveying Scout families on the subject prior to the May vote. It seems clear that the survival of the organization as a national movement depends on standing with the these Scout families and lifting the ban.


This post has been updated to clarify that the 97 percent figure represents only those who volunteered an opinion, not of all Scout families surveyed.

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