Trail Life USA launches a Boy Scout alternative

Posted at 7:45 AM, Sep 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-09 09:45:32-04

By Ed Payne

(CNN) — Trail Life USA, the group that was launched after the Boys Scouts voted to allow gay members, held its inaugural convention over the weekend in Nashville. More than 1,000 people attended, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The group, which will officially launch in 2014, says it expects to become a “premier” Christian organization for boys and young men.

At the weekend event, which reporters were not allowed to attend, the group unveiled its name and logo.

The logo includes the words adventure, character and leadership.

“Trail Life USA will be inclusive of boys, regardless of religion, race, national origin or socioeconomic status, and accept boys who are experiencing same-sex attractions or gender confusion,” a statement from the group says.

“However, it 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.”

Boy Scout vote

In May, more than 60% of 1,400-member national council of the BSA voted to allow openly gay youths to join scouting. The change takes effect January 1.

The BSA, however, will maintain its ban on gay adult leaders.

The National Jewish Committee on Scouting, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors more Scout units than any other faith, all endorsed the change.

Faith-based organizations charter more than 70% of Scout chapters, providing meeting space and leadership, according to the BSA.

“There have been some organizations that have decided not to renew their charters with Scouting,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in May. “But we can’t quantify the impact of the amended policy.”

Not anti-BSA

Despite its Genesis, Trail Life USA says it’s not “anti-BSA,” nor its name is meant to be “political or controversial.” The theme of the weekend conference was: “Honoring the Legacy, Raising the Standard.”

Yet, the group is clear on the stand it’s taking.

“Our whole life is about the trail, both in the outdoors and in the journey of life as believers,” said John Stemberger, chairman of the board for the organization, and also founder of On My Honor, a group that opposed the Scout’s change in policy.

“So Trail Life is a way of life that is centered on following Christ in the outdoors.”

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