The mortgage agreement between BSA and JPMorgan Chase & Co. puts Philmont up as collateral against almost $272 million in loans, lines of credit, and bonds—some of which were originally issued as early as 2010. The document caps the total amount of debt secured by Philmont at $450 million.
“Healthy nonprofits seek to pay off debt, not incur more debt,” Calvin Edwards said when WORLD asked him to analyze the mortgage agreement. Edwards runs a firm that since 2001 scrutinizes nonprofits and advises them on financial operations. Some have defended the mortgage as a normal way to secure revolving lines of credit. Edwards disagrees: “This is peculiar. It’s desperate measures.”
This state of affairs is a huge decline for the century-old organization that was once one of the pillars of what sociologists call “civil society,” organizations that teach democracy, leadership, and civic engagement. As of 1970, the Scouting movement had more than 6 million members in the United States. Throughout the 20th century, more than 100 million men and boys (and many females as well) have raised their right hands and recited the Scout Oath, which begins, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country.”
It all leads to the question: “What happened?”
FOR A CENTURY, Scouting was one of the great institutions of American civil society. Alvin Townley has written two books on Scouting. He told WORLD that Scouting was second only to the military in its ability “to bring together so many from so many different backgrounds over such a long period of time. Scouting has played a unique role in American culture. It is part of the fabric of American life.”
It’s also had a close relationship to the churches of America.
All Scout units—more than 100,000 of them—have chartered organizations, which are the “owners and operators” of these units, not just by providing meeting space, but by approving the units’ leaders. More than 70 percent of these chartered organizations are churches. Until Jan. 1, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints used the Boy Scouts as its primary youth program for most of the BSA’s history, and had more than 37,000 units and 430,000 youths in the program. But as recently as 2013, United Methodist, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Southern Baptist churches combined for nearly 30,000 units and nearly 1 million Scouts.
Scouting’s highest rank, the Eagle, has become a widely recognized mark of achievement for more than 2 million young men. Famous Eagle Scouts include President Gerald Ford, Sen. Mike Lee, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mike Rowe (host of TV’s Dirty Jobs), and Walmart founder Sam Walton.