Wyoming Mixed On Boy Scouts Changing Name After 114 Years

After 114 years, the Boy Scouts of America will change the name of the organization early next year to Scouting America, a move that’s getting mixed reviews from people in Wyoming.

Clair McFarland

May 08, 20244 min read

Boy Scouts getty 5 8 24
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Wyomingites involved in scouting have mixed opinions on the 114-year-old youth organization Boy Scouts of America changing its name to Scouting America early next year.

Boy Scouts of America President Roger Krone told the media Tuesday that the name change is about inclusivity.

"We are an organization for all. It's time our name reflects that," Krone said.

Former Boy Scouts, a troop leader and others Cowboy State Daily interviewed Wednesday reacted differently, with some calling the rebrand a smart move to divert recent negative legal actions and media attention, and others calling it unnecessary. 

“That’s good news,” said Jay Conley, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) commander in Star Valley, Wyoming.

Conley said he’s been working to start up a Scouting program in his area for months, and that he benefitted from the program in his own days as a Boy Scout.  

Though the national group touted the name change as an inclusive move, Conley speculated that the rebrand could help set a new course after reports of the unsavory way the group “used to run.”

He did not go into detail.

And yet, some programs have flourished and taught kids useful skills, camaraderie and “how to be a patriot,” he said. “I think we need more of that in the country.”

Actually, Expense

Dennis Freeman, who served for decades as a scout master in Green River and an upper-level administrator in Cheyenne, said he supports the name change, but parted ways with the organization in 2021 because of hiking membership costs for members.

That was when the group was facing millions of dollars in judgments over lawsuits stemming from sexual abuse revelations, he said.

In 2019, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also parted ways with the Boy Scouts, diminishing the organization’s numbers.

Freeman said the membership costs and program fees came to about $100 a year per enrollee by the time he left, tripling in about three years. That adds up for lower-income families with multiple kids in the program, he said.

“I’ve promoted kids to Eagle (Scout rank) who might have gotten there without help even at $24 a year,” he said.

Look Around The World

But Freeman said he supports the name change and considers it a natural move when other scouting groups around the world are knocking down gender exclusion barriers.

Scouts Canada officially went co-educational in 1998.

The United Kingdom’s Scouting Association started accepting girls in 1976.

Boy Scouts of America, or BSA, is not co-ed, but offers different troops for boys and girls and different leaders for each, Freeman noted and the group’s 2018 guidance for inducting girls confirms.

Still, the group has combined-sex “packs,” which are larger clubs that don’t meet as often as the smaller “dens.”

“I’m not sure rebranding solves all their problems, but I think it’s a good idea,” said Freeman, pointing to female troops in his area.

“I wish the Scouts well,” he said. “Scouting meant a lot to me and still does.”

Eagle Scout

Wyoming legislative Rep. JT Larson, R-Rock Springs, is an Eagle Scout, the organization’s highest rank of accomplishment, a title shared by the late U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi and former President Gerald Ford, among other notable people.

Larson said he didn’t have much of an opinion on the name change, but wasn’t sure why it was necessary.

Larson said he didn’t know much about the group’s national scandals; rather, he credited the Rock Springs group with helping to grow his leadership and people skills.

“And I attribute a lot of my success today to the lessons I learned through the Boy Scout program,” he said.

Mama Says No

Janean Retz, a Gillette-area mom with a 7-year-old son, said she considered having her son join the Scouts, but has decided against it with all the group’s changes.

“It is good for boys to have what the Boy Scouts used to provide in an atmosphere of bonding with each other while achieving life skills without the distraction of girls,” Retz told Cowboy State Daily in a Wednesday message. “While the younger boys may not be as distracted by the girls as the older boys likely are, it's still a distraction.”

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter