SALT LAKE CITY — Like millions of other Americans in the 1950s and ’60s, Duane Ruth-Heffelbower spent his formative years learning to tie knots, build campfires and pitch tents with the Boy Scouts, whose wholesome, God-fearing reputation was burnished by Normal Rockwell’s magazine-cover paintings of fresh-faced Scouts, brave, courteous and cheerful.
Though he’s no longer involved in Scouting, the 70-year-old Mennonite minister from Fresno, California, has followed the slow deterioration of the Boy Scouts of America from afar and cringes to think what this week’s bankruptcy filing over a blizzard of sex-abuse lawsuits might mean for an organization already grappling with a steep decline in membership.
“It’s really sad. I’m afraid that people are going to be more skeptical than they were once about the organization and will be more inclined to look for other alternatives to Scouting,” said Ruth-Heffelbower, who grew up in Kansas. “Theses days there are so many things pulling at kids.”