Filed Under:

Trail Life USA, The 'Other' Boy Scouts Of America

Play associated audio

A new faith-based boys group is taking shape, just three months after the Boy Scouts of America decided to change its membership policy to allow gay youth to join.

The group, dubbed Trail Life USA, calls itself a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts. They recently revealed the name at a hotel conference before a crowd of about 1,200 parents and scoutmasters, complete with a slick video with a dynamic score.

Their motto is "walk worthy," and the group says it will focus on adventure, character and leadership.

"Our vision and what we are about is to be the premier national character development organization for young men, which produces godly and responsible husbands, fathers and citizens," said John Stemberger, who led the opposition to the Boy Scouts' policy to allow gay youth.

Stemburger, who is an Eagle Scout, says it was a gut-wrenching decision to leave the Boy Scouts but he says it's time to move on.

"Real men value truth over tradition," he told the assembled crowd. "Real men value principle over program, and they value integrity over institutions."

Many sessions at the inaugural convention were closed to the media, with a few live streamed across the country. Leaders are partnering with American Heritage Girls, a group that formed more than 15 years ago as a faith-based alternative to the Girl Scouts.

Adults in Trail Life USA must sign a statement of faith and make a commitment to purity. That means scouts will be taught that any sexual activity outside marriage is a sin. Leaders say scouts who are gay will be allowed in, as long as they don't promote or engage in any sexual behavior that is a distraction to the program.

They will not allow youth who are open about their homosexuality. Officials did not comment further about the policy.

Some at the conference said they intend to join. Others, like Andy Mallang, an elementary school teacher from Indiana, are investigating their options.

Mallang says he made a personal decision to pull his 9-year-old son out of the Boy Scouts because he says its new policy violates his religious beliefs. He says it was a difficult choice.

"Whether I'm Christian or I have Muslim friends or Jewish friends or Hindu friends, there's still a time where I need to get along and work together," Mallang says. "I struggle with [thinking] 'am I doing the right thing?' I am hoping that this organization for boys will be the answer."

Responding to the Boy Scouts new policy, some churches have announced they won't continue to sponsor troops. Others support the change, and some say the century-old organization didn't go far enough and that troops should also allow adult leaders who are gay.

A spokesman for the Boy Scouts says where a charter group has decided not to continue, other organizations have stepped up to provide a home. The group says 99 percent of its more than 100, 000 scouting units remain committed.

But this new group, Trail Life USA, says it expects to charter 1,000 troops as incubators by January when its program officially begins.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Barbershop: UofL Basketball Ban, Football Concussions And The NFL Women's Summit

ESPN contributor Kevin Blackistone, Bloomberg View's Kavitha Davidson and The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery talk about the UofL basketball team, public opinion of the NFL, and women in sports.
NPR

After Introducing Changes, Keurig Sales Continue To Fall

Despite America's high coffee consumption, Keurig reported disappointing sales this week. Even during its popular holiday selling period, the numbers haven't perked up in recent years.
NPR

With A Little Help From Larry David, Bernie Sanders Does SNL

Bernie Sanders impersonator Larry David hosted the episode with a cameo from the senator himself. Sanders slipped in a main campaign message, while David jabbed at the candidate's cantankerous side.
NPR

How Limited Internet Access Can Subtract From Kids' Education

Smartphones are often credited with helping bridge the "digital divide" between people who do and don't have Internet access at home. But is mobile Internet enough for a family with a kid in school?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.