Boy Scouts of America membership fees to increase by 80 percent amid wave of sex-abuse lawsuits

The Boy Scouts of America, faced with a wave of sex-abuse lawsuits, will increase its annual membership fee next year by more than 80 percent to relieve some financial pressure, the organization said last week.

For years, the BSA has been entangled in costly litigation with plaintiffs who alleged abuse by scout leaders in their youth. Hundreds of lawsuits may lie ahead with the recent enactment of laws in several states making it easier for victims of long-ago abuse to seek damages.

The fee increase, the Scouts' regional councils say, is needed to meet rising operating costs, notably for the liability insurance that covers all official Scouting activities.

“[T]he Boy Scouts of America made this difficult, but necessary, decision so we can continue to provide essential services that support once-in-a-lifetime adventures in a safe and welcoming place,” the organization said in a statement to Fox News.

FILE: Cub Scouts watch a race during the Second Annual World Championship Pinewood Derby in New York's Times Square. 

FILE: Cub Scouts watch a race during the Second Annual World Championship Pinewood Derby in New York's Times Square.  (AP)

As of Jan. 1, the annual membership fee for 2.2. million youth members will rise from $33 to $60; the fee for adults will rise from $33 to $36, the Scouts said. The increases could generate more than $60 million in additional funds in the coming year.

The BSA's current youth participation is down from more than 4 million in peak years of the past. It has tried to offset the decline by admitting girls, but the membership rolls will take a big hit as of Jan. 1, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cuts its ties with the BSA.

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Scores of the Scouts' volunteer adult leaders weighed in on the fee increase in comments on a blog operated by the BSA's Scouting Magazine. Several of the leaders warned that the increase would drive away low-income families from the organization.

The BSA said it “has established a new Registration Assistance Fund to provide additional financial support to those who need it.”

Many of the volunteer leaders commenting on the blog were upset by the timing of the announcement. It came after Scout units had already begun collecting fees for their 2020 registration renewal process and setting their budgets for the coming year.

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Donald Dement, a volunteer leader with his sons' Boy Scout troop in Texas, said some conservative families in Frisco continue to resent major changes made by the BSA in the past decade, like opening its programs to girls, and admitting gay people as scouts and adult leaders.

But regarding the fee increase, he said most scouting families "will be understanding and accepting."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.