By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com September 08 2013 2:10 PM ET
More than a thousand former members and officials of Boy Scouts of America gathered this weekend to create a Christian-based alternative to BSA.
The move comes in response to the Boy Scouts of America’s recent repeal of a restriction that denied membership to youth based on sexual orientation, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
More than 1,200 people from across the United States met for a two-day conference in Nashville, Tenn. to select the name, logo and uniforms of the new organization, now titled Trail Life USA. Cofounder John Stemberg says the organization will have a “prominent faith component” and become a “masculine outdoor program to raise young men.”
“Most of us are coming from a highly-structured environment that has 103 years of culture and language and program and symbols… and we are starting from scratch,” he told NBC.
Stemberger, who founded OnMyHonor.net in response to BSA’s vote in May that reversed the organization's long-standing ban on openly gay youth among its ranks, says the organization will become “a program that we believe will be stronger, safer and more principled in every way.”
Stemberger told NBC in July that, while the new organization would allow gay members, it would not permit them to “flaunt” their sexual orientation.
“There is not going to be any kind of a witch hunt in our organization for people and what their sexual orientations are,” he clarified. We’re going to focus on sexual purity not sexual orientation.”
Zach Wahls, an LGBT activist, Eagle Scout, and founder of Scouts for Equality, was saddened by the departure of so many families from the BSA. He also questioned Trail Life USA’s intentions of allowing gay members.
"You still cannot discuss sexuality within the BSA,” Wahls told NBC. “That hasn't changed and that will not change, and so, it's really a distinction without a difference that they're trying to make here.”
“Scouting is for all young men,” Wahls said.