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Policy Review

     Let's begin our review by looking at the reason's for BSA's membership exclusion of girls, as found in it's 1991 position statement:

      "The Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs were designed to meet the emotional, psychological, physical and other needs of boys between the ages of 8 and 14. Boys in this age range seek out and enjoy group activities with other boys. The Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs were carefully developed with these considerations in mind."

     No problem here. Both Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting were originally developed for boys in 1929 and 1910.

      "The Exploring program, however, is designed to provide a variety of programs for both boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 21. Approximately 40% of the nation's more than one million Explorers are female."

     Notice that in this paragraph they do not say that "Exploring was designed." Rather it states that "Exploring is designed." The reason for the change from the past to the present tense in the two paragraphs is that Exploring has its roots in the Sea Scouts.
     The Sea Scouts were formed in 1912 for boys! Since that time, there have been Explorer Scouts, Air Scouts, and now Venture Scouts. Along the way, in 1969, girls were allowed to become Explorer Scouts.
     So, what does this prove? Only that if BSA can incorporate girls into a program originally developed in 1912 for boys, there is no reason why they could not do the same for Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts.
     One could argue that the Boy Scouting program has changed little since its inception in 1910, with the exception of lowering the minimum age from 12 to 11. However, Cub Scouting, which originally was designed for 9-11 year olds, now starts with 7-year-olds and continues through the age of 10. In addition, the old Lion Den for 11-year-olds, was changed to the Webelos Den for 10-year-olds and  was expanded into a 2-year program for 9 and 10-year-old boys. The 7-year-olds are considered Tiger Cubs and do not have a "den," but rather a "Tiger Cub Group," made up of the Tiger Cubs and their respective Tiger Cub Adult Partner.
     When Seton originally developed "Cubs of America" in 1911, he never conceived of boys as young as seven, much less eight, being a part of his program. What does this have to do with allowing girls to be Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts? Only that BSA's argument against allowing girls is based on the premise that the programs were not originally designed for girls.
     As the original programs were not designed for 7 or 8-year-olds in Cub Scouting or 11-year-olds in Boy Scouting, there is no reason why BSA cannot modify the programs to allow for girls. It did so in both programs for younger boys.

     After reading BSA's position statement, we're left with BSA basically saying that they don't think a mixed-gender program for young people between the ages of 7 and 14 (Scouting goes to age 17, but Exploring -- now Venturing -- starts at age 15) is appropriate . At least using the Scouting method, as implemented by BSA.
     In the legal challenges to their ban on girls, BSA has primarily relied upon the legal argument that the "Boy Scouts of America is a private organization, and as such, determines it's own membership standards."
     In the cases challenging BSA's ban on gay youth/adults, BSA cites religious tracts, religious leaders, moral authority, the "morally straight" clause in the Scout Oath and the 11th point of the Scout Law -- a Scout is Clean. In the cases challenging BSA's ban on non-theistic youth/adults, BSA once again cites religious tracts, religious leaders, moral authority, the "duty to God" clause in the Scout Oath and the 12th point of the Scout Law -- a Scout is Reverent.
     Since BSA permits girls to participate in Venture Scouting (formerly Exploring) and does not prohibit women from serving in any adult leadership roles, there are no other arguments BSA can make, except to reiterate that BSA "is a private organization, and as such, determines it's own membership standards."

     Is it sex discrimination? Well, of course it is! But, is it legal? Yes!
     No court has ever ruled that either the BSA or GSUSA is in violation of any civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. The Supreme Courts in both Oregon (See Schwenk) and Connecticut (See Pollard), have held that BSA has the right to bar both girls and women from its programs.
     In fact, in the US Code, Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972 (Title 20 U.S.C. Sections 1681-1688), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex "under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance," provides for exceptions. The prohibitions of sex discrimination do "not apply to membership practices of the Young Men's Christian Association, Young Women's Christian Association; Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, and voluntary youth service organizations which are so exempt, the membership of which has traditionally been limited to persons of one sex and principally to persons of less than nineteen years of age"

     Another potential player in BSA's ban on girls is the Girl Scouts. From the time GSUSA was formed, relations between BSA and GSUSA have been uneasy -- to say the least. The founders of BSA felt that girls should not participate in a Scouting-like program, thus they created and favored the Camp Fire Girls (later changed to the Camp Fire Boys & Girls).
     In 1950, the Girl Scouts sought and were granted a Congressional Charter. This allowed them the same exclusive rights as the BSA had been granted in 1915. Since 1915, there'd been some rumblings within BSA that -- because Congress had granted BSA the exclusive right to the use of Scouting in the United States -- legal action should be taken against the Girls Scouts. Thus, the reason why the Girl Scouts lobbied for the Charter.
     The Girl Scouts' Senior Division was hit hard by the BSA's decision to allow girls to become full-fledged members in Exploring in 1971. The BSA's Venturing Division (formerly the Exploring Division) now enrolls more young women than the Girl Scout Senior Division. However, there have been recent indicators that GSUSA membership is on the increase, while BSA's "traditional membership" is waning.(See our page on the decline of BSA membership.)
     Back in 1976 BSA changed its name (except it's legal name) to Scouting, USA. This new name did not last more than 5 years, but at the time, it upset the Girl Scouts. The GSUSA felt people would get confused and might think that the two organizations had merged.
     Given this background, it seems logical to assume that it is not in the best interest of the GSUSA to see BSA allow girls participate in either Cub and Boy Scouting.

     As a Movement whose purpose is to contribute to the education of young people, Scouting originally, and for the first decades of its history addressed only the needs of boys, adolescents and young men -- the male population in the countries in which it was established. In other countries and the US, women played a prominent role within the Movement as adult leaders for the younger age sections. Later, girls and young women started to be admitted as youth members.
     As a result of that evolution in many countries, the Constitution of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) (available as a PDF file) in 1977, defined Scouting as a movement for young people without any distinction of gender. Since that date, the WOSM has striven to address itself equally to females and males, at all levels of the Movement.
     There are two reasons why Scouting is co-ed in most parts of the world. Firstly, there are Scouting's Fundamental Principles. People are most familiar with Scouting's Principles as they are expressed in age appropriate terms in the Scout Law and Promise. DYB or Do Your Best is the best known. Scouting's Fundamentals are the beliefs which underlie all of Scouting. And one of the first things that one reads in the Fundamentals is that Scouting believes that discrimination is wrong. People should be treated equally and not put into separate boxes by the color of their skin, their social class, their nationality, their religion, or their sex.
     The second reason for mixed-gendered Scouting is education. Scouting is fun with a purpose. The purpose being to help young people develop into responsible, capable citizens. Learning to work with the diversity in society, particularly with the other sex, is extremely important and represents the only way of really solving problems of harassment, family violence, and misunderstanding between the genders. In segregated programs, boys and girls learn to look for differences between themselves, widening the gulf between the sexes. In mixed-gendered Scouting, young people work together and learn that the other sex are people like them, not aliens from Mars or Venus.
     According to the WOSM, in "societies where mixed gender relationships (at school, in social and professional life) are, or are becoming, socially accepted and where, therefore, Scouting has a role to play in helping young people to prepare for active and constructive participation in a mixed social environment, the norm will be for National Scout Associations to address both genders through a coeducational approach."
     The WOSM believes that when a "National Scout Association operates in a society where separate gender relationships are the norm and where coeducation is therefore excluded, the association may continue to address the male gender only or may opt for providing Scouting to both genders in single-sex settings."
     The WOSM is committed to encouraging all National Scout Associations to be open to both boys and girls, young men and young women, operating together in mixed units in one or more age-ranges. However, the WOSM realizes that addressing the youth program to young people of both genders requires more than simply putting both together; it requires practicing coeducation.

    Co-education is not simply the state of having youth members, male and female, in a mixed setting, sharing the same activities. It implies a specific approach.

     Co-education can be defined as an approach in which the response to the educational needs of boys and girls, young men and young women, is conceived on the basis of a common educational proposal and a clearly defined set of objectives and method which aim at the development of both genders equally, bearing in mind the individuality of each person and her or his gender identity.

It involves a setting in which:

  • girls and boys, young women and young men, operate together, in a manner that offers equal opportunities to everyone in such things as participation in activities,
  • sharing tasks and responsibilities, making decisions;
  • they pursue a common framework of educational objectives at each persons own pace;
  • the needs and interests of each gender are met;
  • the individuality and gender identity of each person is respected;
  • differences in the pace of development in the various dimensions of the human personality physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual are recognized and accommodated.

     Co-education as defined above, does not necessarily require that young people of both genders have to undertake every activity together; a co-educational approach may also incorporate separate gender activities.

     From looking around the globe, it is evident that Scouting is going co-ed. There seem to be two reasons for this trend toward integration. Scouting believes that discrimination is wrong and that children of all sorts must learn to live together so that they can build a better world for everyone. Since BSA has embraced discrimination, it is difficult to see BSA joining the rest of the Scouting community in fulfilling Scouting's Fundamentals.

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