Tags: Trail Life | Boy Scouts | gay

Christian 'Scouts' Alternative Grows to 14,000 in First Year

By    |   Tuesday, 09 September 2014 12:05 PM

Several months after the Boy Scouts of America decided to allow gay youth to join, Trail Life USA was formed as a Christian alternative. Less than one year later, the group has seen its membership ranks swell to 14,000, reports The Washington Times.

Trail Life USA, which was launched in the fall of 2013, will celebrate its official anniversary on Jan. 1.

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It has grown to 450 troops with more than 14,000 members in 47 states, and almost 300 more troops are in the chartering process, chief executive director Mark Hancock told The Times. In the last three weeks, the group has attracted an average of 345 new members, he added.

By comparison, the Boy Scouts have 2.5 million members.

Many of Trail Life's founding board members are former Boy Scouts who were disappointed with the organization's decision to change its membership policy in 2013.

In May 2013, the 1,400-member national council of the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow openly gay boys to join.

The BSA announced that effective Jan. 1, 2014, "no youth may be denied membership in the BSA on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone," which it said would allow "kids who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting to experience this life-changing program while remaining true to the longstanding virtues of the Boy Scouts of America."

Before the BSA made the change of policy official, John Stemberger formed OnMyHonor.net with the goal of organizing other Boy Scout leaders who were opposed to the changes, according to Trail Life USA video chronicling the group's history.

Story continues below video.

Stemberger now serves as chairman of Trail Life USA.

Trail Life stressed it did not want to bar anyone from the Boy Scouts, but the group wanted to keep issues of sexuality out of the organization and retain its focus on character and scouting.

During the summer of 2013, the former Boy Scouts launched the planning stages for what would be a group with a "Christ-centered" message.

The group models its scouting and program activities along the lines of the Boy Scouts, but differs in the sense that it aims to remove any and all discussion of sexuality.

According to Trail Life USA, all boys are welcome "irrespective of religion, race, national origin or socio-economic status" and the goal of the organization is to provide "a youth program that endeavors to provide moral consistency and ethical integrity in its adult leaders."

The group does not prohibit gay scouts, but only grants membership to "adults and youth who do not engage in or promote sexual immorality of any kind, or engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the program," according to the Trail Life USA website.

While Trail Life USA has focused its attention on scouting, it has not escaped controversy. An Associated Press story earlier this year profiled the group, but included a photo of a young boys that appeared to show them giving the Nazi salute.

The article also included the inflammatory title, "Trail Life courts those who oppose Boy Scouts' acceptance of gays."

They boys, according to The Washington Post, were actually singing "Taps" while raising their hands in the air and then gradually lowering them to their sides.

After the story ran, Stemberger told The Post that Trail Life had received death threats and hate mail. AP eventually agreed to remove the photo from its archives.

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Trail Life USA, formed as a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts of America after that group decided to accept gays, has seen its membership ranks swell to 14,000.
Trail Life, Boy Scouts, gay
Tuesday, 09 September 2014 12:05 PM
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