Disillusioned by the fact that the Boy Scouts of America has allowed for the inclusion of gay kids, a coalition of religious conservatives announced last week that they are forming an alternative Christianity-based youth group called Trail Life USA.
The Boy Scouts decided earlier this year that, while retaining their official stance against homosexuality, local chapters would be allowed to accept openly gay scouts while retaining a policy that sexuality is not something that should be discussed by scout leaders.
Ever since then, religious conservatives have crowed that this will surely spell doom for the Boy Scouts, with several of those vocally opposed going so far as to say they would start up their own groups — and now they have.
The name Trail Life USA was officially revealed at a hotel conference in Nashville on Friday, in front of what NPR informs was a group of 1,200 parents, scoutmasters and, according to Trail Life’s Facebook pictures, Mike Huckabee.
Under the rather innocuous motto “Walk Worthy,” the group says it will focus on principles of adventure, character building and leadership skills.
Trail Life USA is a Christian adventure, character, and leadership movement for young men. The K-12 program centers on outdoor experiences that build a young manís skills and allow him to grow on a personal level and as a role model and leader for his peers. Living the Trail Life is a journey established on timeless values derived from the Bible.
The group says it wishes to be the “premier national character development organization” for young men. So, while it is keen to stress it is not anti-Boy Scouts of America, it clearly wants to unseat the BSA’s position as the youth group of national preference.
Below is the promotional video for Trail Life USA, complete with a somewhat curious score that just screams pomp:
Given that this group rose from the ashes of the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gays, one might assume that Trail Life USA is anti-gay. Not so, says its official stance. Though as a statement from the group says, its not exactly welcoming either:
“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.”
“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.”
This reads as Trail Life operating a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy about homosexuality and a flat out ban on trans and gender variant children if they deviate from proscribed norms. Then of course there’s the gay marriage ban and abstinence-only Purity provisions in†Trail Life’s Provisional Statement on Faith and Values that all adults in the organization must sign. Presumably it must not work retroactively or Trail Life would see its starting administrative numbers somewhat thinned come January 2014′s official launch date.
There is also cause to ponder the term “same-sex attractions.” This is often found among the choice lexicon of those pushing ex-gay therapy, particularly those therapists who indulge in reparative therapy based on so-called Biblical principles that are designed to “help” people overcome that made up affliction Same Sex Attraction (SSA).
In addition to this, we note an abundance of almost comical “real men” phrases. Take this CNN quote from John Stemberger, a man who led the charge against the change in BSA policy and a main driving force in Trail Life:
“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.
Stemberger, who is an Eagle Scout, said it was a gut-wrenching decision to leave the Boy Scouts. But he said 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.”
“I want to have a prominent faith component that will be weaved in every fiber of the program,” Stemberger said. “But at the same time, we are not going to become religious and churchy. This is not another church program. This is going to be a masculine outdoor program to raise young men.”
So religious without being “churchy,” and manly men training kids in the ways of masculine manliness. Outdoors. Like Jesus.
To be very clear here, at no point has ex-gay therapy been mentioned by Trail Life USA. It’s just that, to the experienced ear, its language appears to borrow heavily from the same playbook.
As a private organization, Trail Life of course has the right to decide its admissions policy and its own moral charter, but it cannot in all seriousness suggest that it is welcoming of LGBTs simply because it does not overtly condemn them when, laced throughout its policies, there appears to be a strong implicit hostility.