The same day that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will begin allowing out gay boys in their troops a new organization will begin barring them from joining.
Over the weekend, September 7th and 8th, a conference in Nashville, Tennessee, unveiled Trail Life USA, a Christian alternative to the BSA. The conference was largely a closed affair, drawing around 1,200 attendees including former Governor Mark Huckabee. The group was formerly known as On My Honor, but used the conference to unveil its new name, logo, and advertising campaign.
The group promotes itself as a “national character development organization for young men” with the goal to produce “godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens,” said John Stemberger, the Chairman of the group. The group is inclusive “regardless of religion, race, national origin or socio-economic status,” though it remains a Christian organization.
The main reason this BSA splinter group came to existence was because of the national acceptance of gay scouts, and that is made clear in the group’s admission policy. While sexually- and gender-confused boys will be allowed, the group “will not admit youth who are open or avowed about their homosexuality, and it will not admit boys who are not ‘biologically male’ or boys who wish to dress and act like girls.” The group will focus more on sexual purity and religious conviction, which creators feel other groups are lacking. Scouts will have to sign a “purity pledge” and remain faithful to the group while they are under 18 (and, presumably, until marriage).
Trail Life USA also promotes adventure, character development, and leadership in its advertisements, and begins its promotional materials with “Walk worthy,” adding a dimension of righteousness to the whole “scouting” experience.
Last May the BSA council voted to lift the ban on gay scouts, but keeps the restrictions on gay scout leaders. The council affirmed, however, that “any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual… is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.” The organization insisted that 99 percent of their troops will remain together and largely unaffected, with the remaining one percent being sponsored exclusively by church groups.
Trail Life USA claims that it will take a leaf from American Heritage Girls, a faith-based Girl Scouts alternative that was started 15 years ago and has a troop in almost every state. Trail Life USA will also be working to recruit troops across the country to start on January 1, 2014. While BSA maintains that their more than 100,000 troops will be maintained, Trail Life USA hopes to have 1,000 troops in existence by the starting date.
This whole thing will most likely just lead to Scout Offs, where both organizations will have to see who can whittle the best, or sell the most popcorn. What a turbulent world for young boys who just want to learn about the outdoors.
Author: Eugene Riordan, Jr.