- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A group of Scouts recently met with President Obama to give him an updated membership card, a coin as a token of appreciation and the organization’s annual report for 2014.

The report shows the 105-year-old Boy Scouts of America is going strong, but with a 15 percent drop in youth membership since its 2011 annual report.

Mr. Obama, who like other presidents serves as honorary president of the BSA during his term in office, personally welcomed the youth delegates into the Oval Office on March 25, and spoke with them briefly.

A report with photos and video was posted Tuesday on the Facebook page of Bryan Wendell, the senior editor of Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.

The BSA annual report showed that in 2014 nearly 52,000 young men earned the prestigious Eagle Scout Award, and Scouts offered more than 14 million hours of community service, worth $323 million.

More than 1 million Scouts attended high-adventure camps around the country, and collectively camped out for more than 6 million nights.

The youth membership numbers, however, continued to erode: The number of Cub Scouts fell from 1.58 million in 2011 to 1.29 million in 2014, while the number of Boy Scouts went from about 910,000 in 2011 and 2012 to around 855,000 in 2014, according to BSA annual reports.

When the older-youth Venturing and Sea Scouts programs are added in, these core youth programs saw about a 15 percent decline from 2.7 million members in 2011 to 2.3 million in 2014.

The venerable BSA went through unusual upheaval during its national debate on its youth membership policy and the inclusion of youth who are openly homosexual.

In May 2013, hundreds of members of the BSA’s national council voted to update its youth membership policy to admit openly gay youth, while affirming that sexual activity of any kind is “contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”

The BSA did not consider changing its separate membership policy for adults,  which disallows lesbians and gays to serve as Scouting volunteers or leaders.

Gay rights groups have denounced the latter decision as discriminatory, and some companies have withdrawn their support for the BSA over the adult policy.

Thousands of Scouting families didn’t like the change in youth membership, and left Scouts.

Some have since joined a new, faith-based organization for boys and young men called Trail Life USA.

In January, John Stemberger, chairman of the board of Trail Life USA, told Charisma News that the new organization has 524 troops in 48 states, with around 20,000 members. About 40 percent of members were not previously part of the BSA, Trail Life USA said.

BSA, which was founded in 1910 and chartered by Congress in 1916, reached 1 million members by 1925 and today has 280 local councils and nearly 1 million volunteers in addition to its nearly 2.4 million youth members.

Other highlights of the BSA 2014 annual report are two new merit badges in science, technology, engineering and math — one for digital technology and one for mining. The Cooking merit badge was also updated to sharpen its focus on nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

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