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No longer loyal to Scouts, boys join Trail Life

By Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 07:27 a.m. HST, Mar 01, 2014


NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas >> Chatting in the living room one night, Ron Orr gave his 15-year-old son Andrew a choice: He could stick with the Boy Scouts of America and his mission to become an Eagle Scout, or he could join Trail Life USA -- the new Christian-based alternative that excludes openly gay boys.

This was no small decision. Four generations of Orr men had been Eagles, including Ron and Andrew's older brother. Andrew had spent years working toward Scouting's highest rank, and was just months from reaching it.

But the Boy Scouts had decided to admit gays, and Ron Orr, a tall, soft-spoken man with a firm handshake, is clear about his Christian faith and what it says about homosexuality: It is a sin that cannot be tolerated.

His son agreed. He would forgo the century-old BSA for Trail Life, which officially launched just last month.

"It felt like I'd be hitting something higher than Eagle in terms of achievement," Andrew said, in an interview.

So Orr and his son left BSA and set out with other families to build a new organization based on what they believe to be Christian values. Orr is a regional organizer who speaks to churches and groups about Trail Life. His son now aspires to achieve a Freedom Award, the new group's highest rank.

The Orrs and others in Trail Life say they are fighting for the traditional values of Christianity and of Scouting, which includes a command in the Scout Oath to be "morally straight" -- even as a changing America grows more accepting of gays and gay marriage. They are leaving an organization central to many of their upbringings with heavy hearts, but also with the belief that the Scouting they knew no longer exists.

"As Christians from a scriptural basis, we love all folks, but the Scripture is very clear that being homosexual is a sin," Ron Orr said in an interview. "We've got to be able to hold a strong line and set a consistent example for our young men."

___

Trail Life has established units in more than 40 states, mostly from Boy Scouts and parents who feel their old organization has lost its way. It has about 600 units up and running or in the process of registration, executive director Rob Green said. As many as half of those who have expressed interest were not affiliated with the Boy Scouts beforehand, Green said.

It is still a tiny movement compared to Scouting, which has nearly 2.5 million youth members and remains a powerful force in American life, even with a 6 percent drop in membership last year.

Trail Life promotes itself on its website as the "premier national character development organization for young men which produces Godly and responsible husbands, fathers and citizens."

Its official membership standards policy welcomes all boys, but adds, "We grant 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."

For over a century, Scouting banned openly gay youth and leaders, fighting all the way to the Supreme Court to defend its right to do so. Leaders who were revealed to be gay were excluded, and some boys were denied Eagle Scout awards by regional councils that were notified of their sexual orientation.

But the Scouts eventually began to face pressure from sponsors and CEOs who serve in Scouting leadership but lead companies with anti-discrimination policies. BSA surveys also showed that youths and parents of Scouting-age children were supportive of allowing openly gay Scouts.

Scouting leadership proposed a compromise: Accept openly gay youth, but exclude gay adult volunteers. BSA's National Council voted in May to enact it.

There are signs that the change worked. One of the gay Scouts who rallied for the change, Pascal Tessier of Maryland, has since received his Eagle award. And threats of massive departures from Scouting ranks have not materialized. Early reports suggest a small percentage of Scouts left BSA due to the policy -- far less than even what Scouting leaders were led to expect by surveys conducted before the vote.

"Ultimately, Scouting voted in favor of a new policy that allows us to serve more kids," said Deron Smith, BSA's national spokesman, in an email. "That said, we're pleased that the strong majority of our Scouting family remains committed to Scouting."

But the vote also angered many people affiliated with Scouting, particularly in more conservative parts of the country. Many of them have stayed with Scouting so far. Others have sought alternatives, from Trail Life to other youth groups sponsored by churches.

"We're trying to learn from the mistakes of the Boy Scouts," said John Stemberger, an Orlando, Fla., lawyer who led the opposition to BSA's May vote and went on to found Trail Life.

Stemberger accused BSA of imposing "an artificial political and social agenda" on its national membership at the expense of its rank-and-file members and churches. He says he's heard from people still in Scouting who are quietly dissatisfied, but staying put for now.

"They have now allowed open and avowed presentation in your face: here and queer, that kind of blunt thing," he said in an interview late last year. "And we don't think that's appropriate. We will allow boys of same-sex attraction in the program. We're not going to allow them to facilitate and promote that."

___

Some of the parents who took their children out of Scouting and into Trail Life admit feeling the loss of BSA's history and tradition. They remember Eagle Scout ceremonies and trips to BSA's national campgrounds, and acknowledge that their children won't experience those things in quite the same way.

But they say the threat to their children's values outweighs any of that.

Orr home-schooled his two sons, one of whom is now in college, and leads his local association of home-school parents in North Richland Hills, Texas, a conservative suburb of Fort Worth. Orr said he was confident before the vote that the policy change would fail. When it didn't, he and his association's board began to study alternatives.

Orr attended Trail Life's national convention in September, where he met with others interested in a new program and came away confident that it would work for his son and other boys in the home-school association. He's now one of Trail Life's leading recruiters, responsible for six states in the Southwest.

"When we saw Trail Life unveiled, what I saw was a program built on strong Christian principles, but those were integrated into a young man's development," he said.

All of the families in his Trail Life unit belong to the home-schooling association. They put a great emphasis on traditional Christian values, taking a direct hand in their children's education to make sure those values are instilled.

"We feel strongly enough that they should be taught at a young age and modeled," said Lisa Glaspell, the mother of three young boys. She just signed up her oldest, 5-year-old Malachi, for Trail Life.

"I'm a single parent, and I knew he would be surrounded by men of good strong character," Glaspell said in an interview. "And I knew they could provide him with the example and encouragement he's going to need as a young boy."

On a recent winter evening, about 40 boys from the unit attended a Trail Life meeting inside a non-denominational Christian Church. All of the boys, ages 5 to 16, met together before splitting off into age and rank groups.

They wore green Trail Life T-shirts and stood in lines in front of their three youth leaders. After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, it was time for them to raise their right hands and say the Trail Life Oath, which calls on the boys in part "to serve God and my country, to respect authority, and to be a good steward of creation."

Most of them didn't know all of the words yet, and the group lost steam after the first line. As the boys started to giggle and look around at each other, one of their leaders shouted, "Start over!" and helped them finish it.

They then sat down for a religious talk from their adult Trailmaster, Philip Buchholz. He told them that it was important for them to stay true to who they are.

"You're the salt of the earth," Buchholz told the boys, quoting Matthew 5:13. "The salt was a preservative. You guys, being the salt of the earth, are a preservative."

He asked them for examples of salt's uses, and then issued an apt challenge.

"If salt loses its saltiness, how is (the Earth) going to be preserved?"

___

Trail Life has just seven paid staffers so far. It is still working through signing up new units and building the infrastructure that a national youth organization will need. The organization is relying on a $325 chartering fee for new units, as well as membership fees, merchandise sales and some private donations.

Stemberger says he's heartened by the "organic" growth so far and predicts more Scouts will defect, particularly if BSA eventually opens its doors to openly gay adult leaders. "When they do that, we'll be in a position to see real growth," he said.

The boys and their parents are still getting used to a world of new names, new ranks and new uniforms that haven't arrived yet. They hold up five fingers while reciting their oath, instead of three. Scouts are now "Trailmen," and troops are now units. There is a new handshake and a new salute.

Trail Life has issued a chart to help transfer Scouting ranks into Trail Life ranks. It has a handbook that covers camping, knots and other skills familiar to any Scout. To achieve the Freedom Award, boys will choose subjects for a "major" and two "minors," something Trail Life organizers hope will give the boys new opportunities to learn and challenge themselves.

"I see all of these elements working together to truly build upon the foundation they received in Boy Scouts and maybe go to a new standard as they move forward in Trail Life," Orr said.

It will be years before the parents know if the change and their effort were worth it.

After Buchholz's talk about Scripture, another adult leader, Joshua White, announced the winner of the vote that opened their meeting: to rename the box-car races known nationwide by Scouts as the Pinewood Derby. The winning name for the Derby was the Trail Life Grand Prix, and the boy who suggested the name won a patch to be sewn onto his formal uniform, once it's ready.

The boys then broke off into age groups. The oldest teenagers discussed the unit's first camp, scheduled for April. The youngest 5- and 6-year-old boys talked to an adult about what to do if they got lost at the mall. Others played games in the parking lot outside, running around and shouting joyfully on a cold evening.

White wasn't a Boy Scout growing up, but went to high school with Eagle Scouts whom he admired greatly. "From pretty much that point on, I knew I wanted my son to be a part of that," he said. His son, now 11, joined Cub Scouts and soon shared his dad's dream.

But the policy on gays changed that.

Sitting next to Orr during the meeting, White began to cry as he described what his son said: "I wanted to go with what God would want."

His voice wavered.

"It made it clear that we had taught him what he needed to know," he said.

_____

Follow Nomaan Merchant on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nomaanmerchant.






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retire wrote:
Good for them!
on March 1,2014 | 07:07AM
HIE wrote:
Yeah, except almost everyone in the photo has a haircut that goes directly in contradiction to what the Bible, and thus God, mandates. But that hypocrisy is the standard-bearing quality of right-wing American "Christians"....
on March 1,2014 | 10:20AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Do you have a theology degree? Too bad. You'd know better what God "mandates".
on March 1,2014 | 05:54PM
cojef wrote:
Not a Christian so will not comment on their beliefs, however how far can a faith based social organization grow and expand is questionable. Wish them success for stated beliefs.
on March 1,2014 | 07:21AM
Slow wrote:
At last, a Tea Party for boys! Stay right in the box, kids. That is what is wonderful about America. There's freedom to join Little Bigots, Youth for Hitler, KKK for Kids...anything you want they got it right here in the USA (lyrical thanks to Chuck Berry).
on March 1,2014 | 07:25AM
kekelaward wrote:
Love your acceptance and tolerance of other's beliefs. Oh, sorry, it's us who have to accept and tolerate everything and you who don't. I see now.
on March 1,2014 | 07:48AM
d_bullfighter wrote:
BINGO!
on March 1,2014 | 08:05AM
kolohepalu wrote:
Good.
on March 1,2014 | 11:42AM
wiliki wrote:
Right.. for these parents it's a way to brain wash their kids about their bigoted beliefs.
on March 1,2014 | 09:51AM
GONEGOLFIN wrote:
Slow, you are as your name states-YOU are a bigot just as much as the homophobics, or did you not realize the meaning of the word bigot-it is not necessarily someone who hates or is prejudice against others for their beliefs--It's meaning is anyone who does not share the same beliefs as others. But I wholeheartedly agree, just cause you dont believe in freedom to beleive what you want, is no reason for anybody else to be believe in homosexuality. SO, you see, you are a BIGOT as well.
on March 1,2014 | 09:59AM
kolohepalu wrote:
Yeah- you drape your bigotry in the american flag and it's called "patriotism" or defending "traditional values".
on March 1,2014 | 11:44AM
kekelaward wrote:
And you drape yours in "tolerance" and "inclusiveness" until the rubber hits the road, then we see the truth of your position.
on March 1,2014 | 12:05PM
HanabataDays wrote:
I'm amused that they think keeping out gay Scouts will protect their sons from pedophiles. It won't be terribly long before they find out otherwise. After all, if you can't trust celibates...?
on March 1,2014 | 07:48AM
MillionMonkeys wrote:
Good point. Not to wish any abuse on any kid, but if/when it happens in Trail Life, their parents' whole belief system will collapse. --Doh!!
on March 1,2014 | 08:55AM
GONEGOLFIN wrote:
I agree with the story. It is not so much a pedophile issue as much as it is a gay issue. If you'd like to start a Gay Scouts-more power to you. I'd rather go camping and fishing and the other scouting activities-not learn how to put on fingernail polish, or the fine art of color matching.
on March 1,2014 | 10:04AM
kolohepalu wrote:
Yeah, they should send them someone safe- how about an overnighter with a Catholic priest?
on March 1,2014 | 11:41AM
coyote wrote:
I no longer donate to either the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts, not like they'll miss me a lot.
on March 1,2014 | 08:08AM
Dawg wrote:
o joke! keep you lose change for your cigs.
on March 1,2014 | 08:44AM
justin_thyme wrote:
The Boy Scouts made a huge leap forward when they dropped their discriminatory policy against gay boys and young men. Promotion of civil rights and tolerance are positive attributes that all people, Scouts or otherwise, should support. Trail Life is a blatantly discriminatory, bigoted, and shameful organization. It seeks to promote a hateful, outdated, and un-"Christian" belief system. Shame on them!
on March 1,2014 | 08:44AM
Jerry_D wrote:
Why is it a shame? EVERYBODY is entitled to follow their own beliefs, even if it isn't the politically-correct bandwagon belief that society is jumping on at the moment. Hey, if people want to identify themselves as being anti-gay, so what? They've got just as much right to do so as YOU do identifying yourself as being pro-gay. So long nobody burns crosses in my front yard or inflicts any kind of real harm on me (tangible or intangible), I really don't CARE what your beliefs are!
on March 1,2014 | 09:07AM
kekelaward wrote:
Good post.
on March 1,2014 | 12:07PM
GONEGOLFIN wrote:
Dude, maybe you should join the Trail Life and find out what you have just joined is not the picture you've just painted. You're pathetic to even mention the negatives. Sounds like you have a severe problem with living your life with the normal morals and ethical standards this country and come to know. I beleive you should be able to live your life however you want-whether it be gay or straight-but dont try and mix the 2 together and not expect irrational people such as yourself talking trash and labeling people bigots, when you yourself are obviously a bigot for not agreeing with the story. Please get an education and understand WHAT a bigot is. Shame on you for promoting the way of life that is ruining our society.
on March 1,2014 | 10:08AM
klastri wrote:
You probably don't realize it, but you plagiarized comments that were published after racial integration. Exactly the same phrases and words. And exactly the same tortured logic. Long live ignorance!
on March 2,2014 | 10:39AM
Dawg wrote:
God Bless the Boy Scouts, and God help the BIGOTS!
on March 1,2014 | 08:45AM
Jerry_D wrote:
You sound like a bigot yourself, with that statement.
on March 1,2014 | 09:07AM
nitpikker wrote:
i won't be surprised if membership is 99% white.
on March 1,2014 | 09:56AM
First-Responder wrote:
There is always someone who will bring race into this discussion where it doesn't belong.
on March 1,2014 | 12:47PM
klastri wrote:
The reason that race is related is that groups like Trail Life are following in the same footsteps as the groups that protested when organizations were integrated with blacks. They even use the same words and phrases. It's an example of true ignorance at work, and it's pathetic. It amazes me at how bad some parenting can be.
on March 2,2014 | 10:37AM
First-Responder wrote:
The Aloha Council of BSA is solid and have served our youth with distinction for generations. On the other hand, they are part of BSA and this misguided change in policy. I stepped away from them when the policy went into affect. How can I help form this new organization in Hawaii?
on March 1,2014 | 11:07AM
kuroiwaj wrote:
First-Responder, I've been wondering what would happen in two years when the Aloha Council of BSA lose 90% of its membership.
on March 1,2014 | 11:41AM
First-Responder wrote:
I agree and that should be a concern too. This whole thing is really about money (major contributors) and the false impression that everyone, everywhere must be open to the gay lifestyle lest they be labeled as a bigot. I'm just glad my boys have done their Eagles and are out of public schools. Now I'm thinking about where my personal money and volunteer time should go - probably outside of scouting.
on March 1,2014 | 12:46PM
false wrote:
Oohh. It'll be a Bad Day at Black(kuro)Rock(iwa) or kuroiwa.
on March 1,2014 | 03:29PM
kuroiwaj wrote:
First-Responder, do you believe that all these actions around the Country is a sign of consequences created by the homosexual/bisexual actively pushing their agenda to accept same-sex marriage? Would it also be the rejection of Pres. Obama's personal agenda and leadership? We know the same-sex marriage issue will be before the U.S. Supreme Court in a year or two. All, and I do mean all, of the national polls today asking similar questions has been a rejection of between 60% and 70% of the Presidents agenda and leadership. Could it be that the homosexual/bisexual community over played their hand and now comes the response of their actions? Same-sex marriage, Obama-care, Don't ask-Don't tell, reduction of America's defense, IRS given the power to go after American citizens, NSA spying on each of us, American leaders outright lying to us, opposition to the Keystone pipeline costing America jobs, increasing the minimum federal wage to $10.10, EPA establishing administrative policies that by-pass Congress hurting citizens, Pres. Obama increasing his control and power of the office of President with executive orders (for many of us, we remember E.O. 9066 in 1942 and its impact), and many others executive actions, What is happening to America? And is its citizens beginning to react? What do you think?
on March 1,2014 | 05:26PM
klastri wrote:
Looks like you watch Fox News all day and all night. You must be a real blast at dinner parties.
on March 1,2014 | 07:39PM
kolohepalu wrote:
How sad that a bunch of homophobes can indoctrinate little kids before they are old enough to know better. They will grow up, find out that there are very nice gay people and plenty of creepy straight people.
on March 1,2014 | 11:40AM
kekelaward wrote:
And vice versa. You think it's okay, as in Pono Choices, that a bunch of homosexuals can indoctrinate little kids before they are old enough to know better. Neither position is correct. No one should be indoctrinating little kids at all. We should be attempting to help them understand how to make rational, educated decisions and, as adults not freaking out when they make decisions that we don't agree with. the main thing is that they grow up not hurting others, and not getting hurt by others.
on March 1,2014 | 12:13PM
hawaiiwalter wrote:
kekilaward...homosexuals are ont indoctrinating children with Pono Choices. Those people are called teachers and they have been certified by the state of Hawaii to teach age-appropriate material. Why do bigots always twist the truth?
on March 1,2014 | 01:57PM
8082062424 wrote:
But it is DOE who is pushing it on 6th graders . some teachers who feel the program is not fit ask to opt out and was told no they can not..there way more to the truth they your saying
on March 1,2014 | 02:35PM
8082062424 wrote:
they will grow up with the morals and values that they were raised with . just because you do not agree with it does not make it wrong, . you rather have the gay agenda push on them that there life style is normal and every thing else is wrong
on March 1,2014 | 12:20PM
hawaiiwalter wrote:
Gay children have ALWAYS been in the boy scouts. Grow up people.
on March 1,2014 | 01:58PM
8082062424 wrote:
It real simple if a group or club or even a church does not support what you believe in then do not go there. go to one that does. and that just what they are doing here. good luck to them i hope it works out great
on March 1,2014 | 02:38PM
hawaiiwalter wrote:
Let them go to New Hope Church. New Hope just agreed to pay $750,000 for cheating the government out of rent money for using school facilities. The new boys joining this alternate group can help pay the bill.
on March 1,2014 | 02:58PM
8082062424 wrote:
Gregg Hammer (Island 98.5) & Davey D (KCCN FM100) started a boys youth group. that a great program i believe it connected to hope chapel . but the truth is they can go where they want to have it or start one up.. i do not see why any one would have a problem with this. it a good thing helping young boys
on March 1,2014 | 04:29PM
8082062424 wrote:
Gregg Hammer (Island 98.5) & Davey D (KCCN FM100 started uo a boy youth group . i believe it connected to hope chapel . but they can go where they want and start up one where ever they want. it a good thing for young boys. . more so with so many dead beat dads
on March 1,2014 | 04:36PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Why is it that your team constantly droned on about gay marriage having no affect on other marriages, yet now quickly attacks an organization that won't affect them in any way? Total bigotry and hypocrisy. Demand tolerance on one hand while the other denies it.
on March 1,2014 | 06:12PM
klastri wrote:
Obviously, the two issues have nothing whatever to do with each other, and the fact that you think that are that same is pathetic. In the case of same sex marriage, the issue was the police power of the state preventing some couples from exercising a right that other couples have. In the case of Trail Life, it's a private group that has every right to attract moronic bigots together to keep their kids in the 1950's. Good for them. It has nothing to do with the use of police power to maintain discrimination.
on March 1,2014 | 07:36PM
hawaiikone wrote:
You're comment merely proves my point.
on March 3,2014 | 04:07PM
klastri wrote:
Perfect. A group for boys with ignorant and bigoted parents. That's certainly something to be proud about!
on March 1,2014 | 07:26PM
hawaiikone wrote:
See my comment above. You prove my point.
on March 1,2014 | 08:51PM
klastri wrote:
The argument you made is nonsense. The same sex marriage issue was one group of people trying to force the state to exercise its police power to discriminate against another group of people. That has nothing to do with what the founders of Trail Life are doing. Nothing. And to conflate the two means either that you are deliberately lying or simply don't understand the issue. The founders of Trial Life have every right to do what they are doing. Parents have every right to train their children to be homophobic and to prevent them from accepting reality. That has nothing whatever to do with exercising state police power. Thankfully, this is a generational issue - old people care about it and young people don't. Sooner or later, the folks who are developing and running Trail Life will be silenced by old age or death, and the matter will be done with.
on March 2,2014 | 07:55AM
AniMatsuri wrote:
A lot the young have been conditioned to think that way but not all. You assume a lot that there will be no replacements for Trail Life leaders once they retire.
on March 2,2014 | 08:31AM
klastri wrote:
No, I don't. There will be some replacements, but not as many as are alive now. It's just a matter of waiting for people to die off. Every year, fewer and fewer people care about this issue. The people making the separation argument like the Trail Life folks are following in the same sad and pathetic footsteps as people who protested similarly when these groups were integrated. Ignorance is a hard thing to erase completely. But that doesn't mean progressives should give up on trying.
on March 2,2014 | 10:30AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Calling those who chose to follow God's word sad and pathetic is symptomatic of this generation. Fortunately, as your type plunges deeper into nihilistic self absorption, younger people will see the self destructive nature of that mentality and again seek a faith outside of themselves. God is patient.
on March 3,2014 | 04:13PM
AniMatsuri wrote:
Oddly enough, this is probably something the homosexual "rights" groups should have done instead of forcing their way into an organization that didn't outright welcome them in. Not that long ago the BSA was being pounded for just dismissing scout leaders for sexually abusing those under them instead of turning them over the law. You know it won't be long before these groups force the BSA to allow homosexual scout masters. Watch the media under report the facts should stories of sex abuse come up.
on March 2,2014 | 08:26AM
klastri wrote:
It's not homosexual rights. It's equal rights. Equal. Something that the constitution demands.
on March 2,2014 | 10:32AM
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