Christian Group Launches Anti-Gay Boy Scouts Alternative
More than 1,000 attendees -- among them former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and a George W. Bush impersonator -- came out this weekend for the inaugural conference for Trail Life USA: a Christian and anti-gay scouting group that intends to serve as an alternative to the Boy Scout program, CNN reports.
"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," read a statement from Trail Life USA. "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."
According to the Huffington Post, the weekend conference, called "Honoring the Legacy, Raising the Standard" took place at the Sheraton City Music hotel and was sponsored by OnMyHonor, a splinter group that has long been an outspoken opponent of the Boy Scouts' decision to repeal its ban on gay youth scout members.
After long-term efforts by activists seeking institutional reform, the Boy Scouts announced in May that they would be revising their membership criteria to eliminate the ban on openly gay youth Scout members. The BSA voted 61-38 to allow gay scouts, but gay Scout leaders are still prohibited from serving.
"There have been some organizations that have decided not to renew their charters with Scouting," BSA spokesman Deron Smith told CNN in May. "But we can't quantify the impact of the amended policy."
At the time, some conservative churches that sponsored Scout units threatened to defect if the ban were lifted. But liberal Scout liberals made clear that they wanted the ban on gay adults lifted, as well.
Some parents pulled their children out of the program, equating gay people with pedophiles. Defectors from the program have attempted to establish numerous alternative anti-gay organizations for those opposing the repeal of the ban -- such as Trail Life USA.
The program is reportedly set to function around a structure that parallels that of the Boy Scouts, but with a focus on both "sexual purity" and adherence to "a standard statement of Christian values." Trail Life USA will also allegedly incorporate values and beliefs of the American Heritage Girls, a Christian-based Girl Scout Alternative formed over a decade ago.
The Boy Scouts released a statement in response to the formation of Trail Life USA that reads: "It's inappropriate for us to discuss other organizations, but we're pleased that our members remain committed locally and nationally."
Trail Life USA chairman John Stemberger said that the group was not anti-Boy Scouts, adding that the name was not meant to be "political or controversial."
"Our whole life is about the trail, both in the outdoors and in the journey of life as believers," said Stemberger, who is also the founder of On My Honor. "So Trail Life is a way of life that is centered on following Christ in the outdoors."
Trail Life USA is expected to formally launch on January 1, 2014.