Days after new data showed Boy Scouts of America lost approximately 2 million members in eight years, Trail Life USA CEO Mark Hancock suggests the embattled organization is failing because it abandoned its “laser focus on boys.”
“It’s not the pandemic or social trends away from the outdoors that is hurting the Boy Scouts,” Hancock, who heads the leading alternate scouting program founded in 2014 after controversial changes at BSA, said in a statement shared with The Christian Post Tuesday.
“When an organization with a remarkable past that provided us with Presidents and astronauts and generals and civic leaders for over 100 years decides to abandon its laser focus on boys and its commitment to the core strengths that made them and this country great, what would you expect?”
Trail Life USA, which started in the wake of the Boy Scouts lifting a ban on gay youth, seeks to “guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure.”
Other changes Boy Scouts have made over the years include allowing openly gay scout leaders in 2015 and expanding membership to include girls in 2019, which led to a lawsuit from Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
In just nine months after it launched, the "unapologetically Christian" alternative to BSA attracted more than 14,000 members. It recently reported some 30,000 members and has continued growing even during the pandemic.
“In just the past month, over 200 individuals have reached out to ask about how to start a Trail Life Troop in their community,” Hancock, who holds two graduate degrees in mental health counseling, said. “Families are scrambling in search of an organization that will help them make godly men from the stuff of boys. Trail Life is that organization, and that’s why our numbers are exploding.”
From 2019 to 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the BSA’s flagship Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA programs lost 850,000 members, dropping from 1.97 million to 1.12 million over the period.
Since then, membership in those programs has fallen a further 358,000 to the current 762,000, according to figures recently reviewed by The Associated Press.
Last Thursday, the 111-year-old youth organization reached a historic restructuring support agreement filed in bankruptcy court in Deleware with about 60,000 sexual abuse victims that legal experts believe could exceed $1 billion in compensation.
“After months of intensive negotiations, the Debtors have reached resolution with every single official and major creditor constituency in these chapter 11 cases. The debtors now have a plan of reorganization that is supported by the Future Claimants’ Representative, the TCC, the Creditors’ Committee, JPM (the Debtors’ senior secured lender), the Coalition, and the AHCLC,” attorneys for the BSA wrote.
Attorneys for the tort claimants committee, or TCC, previously estimated the value of some 82,500 sexual abuse claims at about $103 billion, AP reported.
Ken Rothweiler, a lawyer representing a group of survivors, told USA Today that the new agreement, which reflects an initial settlement of $850 million, “is the largest settlement of sexual abuse claims in United States history."
"I am pleased that both the BSA and their local councils have stepped up to be the first to compensate the survivors,” Rothweiler said.
Paul Mones, another attorney also representing survivors, told USA TODAY that he expects the settlement amount to exceed $1 billion with contributions from insurance companies.