Membership Policy Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the BSA's current membership standards policy?

The BSA's membership policy is:

Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all who meet the membership requirements. Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Varsity Scouting are for boys. Venturing is for young men and young women. (Updated March 15)

The adult applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle, and abide by the Scout Oath or Promise, and the Scout Law.

While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.

2. The BSA just reaffirmed its policy last summer. What changed?

In 2012, the organization's leaders determined that, at that time, the current policy was in the best interest of the organization. The decision to maintain the policy began a deep dialogue within Scouting. Out of respect for the diverse beliefs of Scouting's chartered organizations, the volunteer and professional leaders began a discussion about the issue.

3. What is the status of the membership policy review?

The BSA is engaging representatives of Scouting's membership and listening to their perspectives and concerns. Twice a year, the BSA distributes a Net Promoter Score survey called the Voice of the Scout. This is a regularly scheduled survey that goes to all leaders, parents, and youth over 14 years of age.

Beginning March 8, the BSA used this survey to ask questions about the membership standards policy (youth were not sent these questions). The BSA distributed approximately 1.1 million surveys to registered volunteers and Scouts' parents for whom it has email addresses and to approximately 325,000 alumni.

The results of the surveys, along with the committee's work, will be put into a larger report and will help inform the officers' work on a resolution regarding membership standards. The voting members of the National Council will take action on a resolution at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013. (Updated March 15)

4. How long will this review take?

The following are the phases the BSA will undertake, with the process being completed at the organization's National Annual Meeting at the end of May.

  • Planning—The BSA defines the desired process and intended outcomes. (Feb. 6–28)
  • Listening—The BSA's standing committees engage key stakeholders for input and develop a summary impact report. (March 1–April 5)
  • Evaluating—The BSA's officers review the summary impact report and prepare a resolution for the consideration of the National Council voting members. (April 5–17)
  • Educating—The report and resolution are shared with the voting members of the National Council. (April 18–May 24)
  • Deciding—At its National Annual Meeting, the BSA conducts an on-site information session for registered participants on Wednesday, May 22, and voting takes place on Friday, May 24.
  • Implementing—Regardless of the outcome, based on the resolution and vote, the BSA will determine and implement the appropriate next steps for the organization. (May 24–ongoing)
    (Updated March 15)

5. Who are the voting members of the National Council? Can I see a list?

The voting members of the National Council of the Boy Scouts are defined in the Boy Scouts of America's bylaws. Commissioned professionals do not vote. Members of the National Council eligible to vote include:

  • Elected members of the National Executive Board and the chairman of the National Advisory Council and NESA president, and those registered youth members appointed by the president with the approval of the Executive Board (national Venturing president and national Order of the Arrow chief).
  • Members of regional boards, which consist of regional executive committees, the area presidents, youth members appointed by the regional president to serve as members of the regional committee, and those members elected annually by the region.
  • Local councils can elect National Council voting members based upon their Dec. 31, 2012, enrolled traditional youth membership (Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturers). These voting members are elected on the basis of one voting member to the National Council for every 5,000 youth members (NOT including Learning for Life participants or Explorers) and one additional voting member for a major portion thereof (2,501 or more).
  • Local council presidents and local council commissioners are also National Council members and therefore eligible to vote.
  • Members at large, who are elected by the National Council at its National Annual Meeting to serve for one year, and persons who become members of the national Administration and Finance Standing Committee, Council Operations Committee, Development Standing Committee, Human Resources Standing Committee, Information Delivery Standing Committee, Marketing Standing Committee, Outdoor Activities Standing Committee, Regional Presidents' Committee, and Supply Committee.
  • The chairman of the National Advisory Council and the National Eagle Scout Association president.
  • All National Council members (those eligible to vote) will receive notification and confirmation of their status on or before April 10.
  • All National Council members will also receive notification of the voting process and directions no later than the end of April.
    (Updated March 15)

The names and addresses of all members of the Boy Scouts of America—including National Council members elected by the local council—are confidential, as mandated by the bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America, except where applicable state law may require otherwise.

6. How many voters are there?

Scouting is a volunteer organization, and individuals may hold multiple positions that are designated as National Council voting members. Each individual may vote only once, regardless of the number of voting positions that individual holds that are entitled to a vote. If one person holds more than one voting position, she or he may resign any other positions, thereby entitling a council to elect another individual who is entitled to vote.

If there is a National Council voting member vacancy, it should be filled by election at the next annual meeting of the local council. In the event that the next annual meeting occurs after May 24, 2013, the local council executive board may appoint an individual to fill that vacancy until the next annual meeting of the council. All (voting) National Council members must have a valid and current membership in the Boy Scouts of America and will be credentialed by the National Council, indicating their right to participate and to vote at the annual business meeting of the National Council. Prior to the National Annual Meeting the number will be finalized and the national office will issue certificates of membership and voting credentials to all National Council voting members. Votes must be cast in person at the meeting and not by proxy.

7. Does a voter have to be present to vote?

Yes, a member must be present to vote.

8. How are the voting members being encouraged to vote? Do they have to represent their councils, or can they vote according to their beliefs?

As defined by the national and local council bylaws, local council representatives who are National Council (voting) members have a responsibility to represent the point of view of the local council. It is up to each council and each National Council voting member to determine how to fulfill these obligations in a manner that fulfills their responsibility to both the Boy Scouts of America and to their local council. Neither the local council bylaws nor the bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America set forth how the "point of view of the council" is to be determined.

The bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America do not specifically dictate how members of the National Executive Board, members of regional executive committees, or members at large are to vote, but given their role(s), the expectation is that they would vote based on their belief as to what is in the best interest of Scouting.

9. Has or will the Boy Scouts review(ed) the "Duty to God" standard?

No. The duty to God is absolutely explicit and one of the fundamental principles of the BSA. It remains the position of the Boy Scouts of America that the ideals and principles of "duty to God" and "reverence" set forth in the Scout Oath and Law—as expressed by the different faith beliefs of our members—are central to teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes. (Updated March 15)

10. What type of response did you receive from your membership about the potential policy change?

This discussion created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change. This feedback reinforced how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.

11. Is this discussion the result of pressure from outside organizations?  Was the decision not to change the policy because of pressure it received from conservative organizations?

No. Scouting's guiding principle is to "Do what's best for the organization." It is clear that no single policy will accommodate all viewpoints on the issue. The BSA won't sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. The BSA believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve life-changing benefits to youth through the program.

12. Is the only reason for discussing this policy that the BSA no longer has legal protection to set membership standards?

No. The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the Boy Scouts of America's right to set our own membership standards that the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of association. BSA's right to establish and maintain its own membership standards consistent with its fundamental principles remains the law. (Updated March 15)

13. Some people are upset with this conversation. Why should they continue to support Scouting?

America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our nation's children. The BSA realizes this topic and process will continue to generate a great deal of interest, both internally and externally.

While Scouting engages its audiences in this important discussion, it will work to create an environment where people who may disagree on a variety of topics can still work together to achieve life-changing benefits to youth through its program.

Going forward, everyone within the Scouting family must work to stay focused on that which unites us, reaching and serving young people to help them grow into good, strong citizens. With your help, we can accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.

14. Who should I contact to express my opinion? 

The BSA values the opinions of its members. Those who want to share their thoughts on this matter may submit them at www.scouting.org/ContactUs.aspx.