(This post was originally published by SDGLN content partner GLAAD.)
Navigators USA, a scouting alternative to the Boy Scouts of America, has doubled its size in the last year. Mother Jones reports that in March of 2012 the organization was comprised of 19 different troops. Recently that number has swelled to 45 different troops in 21 states.
It seems there is still a strong demand by families for scouting programs across America, despite the sharp decline that has been seen in the discriminatory Boy Scouts of America. Unlike the Boy Scouts, whose policy has long been one of exclusion based on sexual orientation, Navigators USA states that it "welcomes all people... no matter what gender, race, lifestyle, ability, religious or lack of religious belief."
The organization was founded in 2003 by a group of volunteers from East Harlem, New York. After having experiences in separate boy and girl scouting organizations, they felt that there was a need for an alternative, non-discriminatory, secular organization. The scouts engage in very similar activities to the Boy Scouts of America, including trips, camping, survival skill education, community service, hiking and more, while still maintaining a strict policy of non-discrimination.
"We wanted our two sons to take part in scouting [and] we wanted to do that within an organization that reflects our family's values. Inclusiveness and respect for others is part of the Navigators program and something we discuss directly with our children." Tony Porterfield, a scout leader from Los Altos, told Mother Jones.
The troops' membership growth is especially notable in light of the Boy Scouts of Americas' membership numbers having plummeted by almost a third since the 1990's. Robin Bossert, the groups' executive director stated to Mother Jones that they are growing at a rate of about 2 chapters each month. Each chapter has an average of 8-12 children making the rough estimate of total membership around 600 boys and girls and constantly growing.
Families who feel that they have been ostracized by other scouting groups can take assurance from the organization's website states that "Navigators USA welcomes all people."