DALLAS (Reuters) - Membership in the Boy Scouts of America took a steeper tumble during 2014, the first year under a policy that allows openly gay youth to participate, than in recent years of a decade-long decline.
About 2.4 million youth participated in the nearly 105-year-old Texas-based scouting program, representing a 7.4 percent decline over 2013 enrollment of 2.6 million youth, Boy Scout officials said in a statement on Friday.
Enrollment declined by about 6 percent in 2013. BSA officials said that decreasing participation is a trend that most youth organizations are facing.
“There are many factors that go into a family’s decision to join and participate in Scouting. This includes, but is not limited to, the limited amount of discretionary time of parents and kids,” the BSA statement said.
The number of adult volunteers dropped to 981,000 in 2014, down from slightly over 1 million 2013.
The new membership policy that allowed gay youth in the organization for the first time split the organization between those who embraced the non-discriminatory change and conservatives who stood by traditional values. Trail Life USA was founded last year as a breakaway organization based on Christian standards.
In an effort to increase membership, the Boy Scouts introduced new technology programs and more outdoor activities. Also, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates became national president and a new “High Adventure Base” opened in West Virginia last year.
Editing by Curtis Skinner