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Christian-based scouting group launches after Boy Scouts allow gay youth

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* Note from OP* I say more power to them....If their organization takes of, then good for them. Maybe they will be more successful than the American Heritage Girls. On another note, my DD was top cookie seller in her troop last year and won a trip to Disney during GS week...a little mommy brag moment:)

Christian-based scouting group launches after Boy Scouts allow gay youth

Lezlie Sterling / for NBC News

Jonathan Pickens looks at his Boy Scouts uniform with badges and patches he earned as a boy at his home in Roseville, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. He has 22 years in the BSA with the troop his father founded.

Families looking for an alternative to the Boy Scouts of America after the group voted to drop its ban on gay youth earlier this year descended on Nashville, Tenn., this weekend to help launch a Christian-based scouting organization.

More than 1,200 former Scout officials, parents and youth from 44 states were attending the two-day national leadership convention where the group unveiled its name – Trail Life USA – and logo, officials with the group said. One of the founders John Stemberger, a former Eagle Scout and father of two scouts, created OnMyHonor.Net, a coalition of disgruntled BSA members who left the organization after the controversial vote in May.

“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,” Stemberger said late Friday as he asked for patience as the group began “a program that we believe will be stronger, safer and more principled in every way.”

Whether the faith-based group gains popularity in the coming months could signal how successful the Boy Scouts of America will be at keeping members when the new policy takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014. BSA members were deeply divided over the decision to allow gay teens, with many vowing to quit the program.

“I do feel strongly enough about the policy that I don’t want my kids there” in the Boy Scouts, said Jonathan Pickens, a California firefighter and father of three boys who opposed lifting the ban on gay Scouts. An Eagle Scout who has 22 years in the BSA with the troop that his dad founded, he would rather “take a little bit of a blind leap of faith and try to make this work.”

Lezlie Sterling / for NBC News

Jonathan Pickens goes through his camping gear at his home in Roseville, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013.

Pickens was in Nashville joining other families and former Boy Scout leaders from across the country to discuss topics such as rank advancement, uniforms and charter partners; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will address the meeting. 

“I want to have a prominent faith component that will be weaved in every fiber of the program,” said Stemberger, an Orlando attorney. “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.”

After vote allowing gay youth to become Scouts, some families call it quits

Boys, ages 5-17, may come from every religious background, but adult leaders in the program will adhere to a standard statement of Christian faith and values. The membership policy will focus on sexual purity rather than orientation. Gay youth and adults can participate, but they cannot “flaunt” their sexuality, Stemberger said in July.

The issue of whether to allow gay youth and adults in the BSA roiled the program for years. A campaign to change the membership policy gained momentum last year after a lesbian was ousted as den mother of her pack and a gay teen was denied the Eagle rank.

Some 70 percent of Boy Scout units are sponsored by churches, many of whom balked at having gays in the program. But as the vote neared on allowing gay youth, the largest church charter partner – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – said it would stay with the organization.

Since the ballot, some churches have reportedly ended their partnership with the Boy Scouts in communities in Florida, North Carolina and Indiana. But a BSA spokesman said Thursday that more than 99 percent of its 116,000 chartered partners were sticking with the program while its national office continued to meet with the sponsors on the issue.

“And in the very rare instance that a chartered organization has chosen not to continue with the Scouting program, other organizations have stepped up to charter those units and provide uninterrupted service to the youth in their communities,” spokesman Deron Smith said in an email.

Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, a group that campaigns for inclusion of gays and lesbians in the Boy Scouts, said he was sad to see families leave the BSA since his group believes that “Scouting is for all young men.” He also questioned if the Christian group would allow gay teens and men, saying he felt it was a "rhetorical ploy," particularly since the Boy Scouts was maintaining a longstanding policy against any discussions of sexuality within the organization. 

"You still cannot discuss sexuality within the BSA. 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," he said.

Wahls and other gay rights advocates, such as GLAAD, have accused Stemberger of being anti-gay, pointing to his work as president of the Florida Family Policy Council, which promotes controversial gay conversion therapy on its website and which helped with the campaign to pass a law banning same-sex marriage in Florida. 

Lezlie Sterling / for NBC News

Jonathan Pickens of Roseville, Calif., shows his first badge from OnMyHonor.Net as he packs a bag for Nashville on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013.

“I want to be clear: We are not an anti-BSA organization,” Stemberger said late Friday. “In fact, we are not an anti-anything or anyone organization.”

Bittersweet victory for gay adults kicked out of Scouting

For those who have already made the decision to leave the Boy Scouts, they are looking ahead to the Nashville convention and beyond.

Jeff Rayno, 51, a field researcher from Pooler, Ga., said he’d like to lead a troop in the new organization. His son Daniel, 14, is a Boy Scout, and Rayno, who believes that homosexuality is a sin, didn’t want him to be exposed to gays or discussion about sexuality through the program.

“I’m very excited that we can be starting a new thing that’s historical in nature that will be talked about years from now as being a cultural shift,” he said. “People are drawing somewhat of a line in the sand, saying that we have something that we believe in, we have a right to associate with people that think the same way that we do.”

For Alan Scheer, a Scoutmaster from Ochelata, Okla., the adjustment has been exciting but tough. His Troop 20 has stopped wearing their uniforms.

“I’ve cried a river since this started. I wanted to be buried in my Scout uniform. I couldn’t have imagined anything that would ever make me want to take it off again,” said Scheer, 50, an industrial mechanic.

He’ll bring to Nashville a photo album of the equipment that his troop has made from wood using old Boy Scouts’ manuals, like a backpack frame. He wants to show those people starting troops in Trail Life USA how they can save money on buying equipment that they would have gotten in the BSA.

“We’re just going to have to grow it ourselves,” he said. “Starting a troop can be expensive. Being able to connect with the Scouts of the old days and use your hands and make your own gear is a nice way to connect with a past that we are going to share.”

That past is strong for Pickens, who had always dreamed of becoming Scoutmaster of the troop his dad, now deceased, started in 1991. His religious belief that homosexuality is a sin, and his concern that his boys could be exposed to gays in the Boy Scouts, led him to leave the program.

Days after he returns from Nashville, he will introduce the new organization to four BSA troops he hopes to bring with him.

“It’s been kind of a bittersweet, big, big, big, change for our family,” he said. “I may have to take on the big job of starting a troop from scratch. Whatever it will be, I am committed to it.”

If you are a current or former member of the Boy Scouts and would like to share your thoughts on how your troop, pack or council is handling the change in the membership policy, you can email the reporter at We may use some comments for a follow-up story, so please specify if your remarks can be used and provide your name, hometown, age, Boy Scout affiliation and a phone number.

Not Without Panties

by on Sep. 7, 2013 at 4:10 PM
Replies (21-30):
by Milami on Sep. 7, 2013 at 6:39 PM
We have American Heritage Girls in our area also. My daughter is a Girl Scout though.
My husband and I just had a talk about this new organization today. Our son is in first grade and in a Christian school. This organizing might be a good fit for him.

Quoting candlegal:

OP, I don't know anything about frontier girls but the American Heritage Girls have been successful.

by Milami on Sep. 7, 2013 at 6:42 PM
This group will make leadership sign Christian moral forms about living a Christian lifestyle and not engaging in homosexuality and will be more faith based.

Quoting JakeandEmmasMom:

Congrats to your daughter!

It says this new group will allow gay youth and adults as long as they don't "flaunt" their sexuality? So what is the point of forming a new group then?
by guerrilla girl on Sep. 7, 2013 at 6:43 PM

What are Spiral Scouts?

Quoting slashteddy:

Welp, my kids will likely join Spiral Scouts over any of the groups mentioned. *shrug*

Not Without Panties

by Milami on Sep. 7, 2013 at 6:44 PM
This group will not be open to openly gay leaders or members. The leaders have to sign clauses about leading Christian lifestyles and not engaging in homosexual behaviors. It will also be a more faith based group.

Quoting NWP:


IDK what that they think the BS kids would? Are they taking a "dont ask, dont tell" approach? Are they trying to include a clause to keep from getting sued for discrimination?

It doesn't make sense, does it?

Quoting JakeandEmmasMom:

Congrats to your daughter!

It says this new group will allow gay youth and adults as long as they don't "flaunt" their sexuality? So what is the point of forming a new group then?

by Bronze Member on Sep. 7, 2013 at 6:51 PM
3 moms liked this
My son is one of over 1300 scouts at a camporee this weekend. The whole island is swarming with them. I don't agree with excluding gay leaders. I don't see how including gay youth is harmful. If these kids go to school, they are already exposed to gay youth.

I'm a conflicted scout parent, but extremely proud of my scout.
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by Bronze Member on Sep. 7, 2013 at 6:52 PM
1 mom liked this
Kind of the opposite. It's scouts, but for children and parents who are LGBTQ+, non-mainstream faith, etc.

Quoting NWP:

What are Spiral Scouts?

Quoting slashteddy:

Welp, my kids will likely join Spiral Scouts over any of the groups mentioned. *shrug*

by "Dude!" on Sep. 7, 2013 at 6:56 PM
1 mom liked this
Ah, note the "masculine" descriptor in the op. Yet they plan to allow non-flaunty gays. Dumbasses.
by MrsSilverusSnape on Sep. 7, 2013 at 8:52 PM
1 mom liked this

It's hard to find a girls scout troop around here they fill up and the girls stay till the very end... I was looking into other things for the girls...They moved on to different interests now

Quoting NWP:

I can imagine that this would be the case. Were you not interested in Girl Scouts? It is a huge deal where I live now because it was started here. Last year, we celebrated 100 years of Girl Scouts and our town was full of tourists all year visiting the birth place of Juliette Low. It was fun to see all the folks from all over.

That said, in our old town GS wasn't as popular or active. 4H was HUGE because it was supported by the university which had a very big agriculture school. They did all kinds of fun things like run a master gardening program and an entimology club. I would have joined 4H there if we had stayed.

Quoting SilverSterling:

It is hard to find a Heritage girl troop here in NC and the few that were found your lucky if there are 2 or 3 girls.. Looking into it for my girls it was nothing but home school kids.. While I have nothing against home school kids I have issues with crazy Fanatic Christian families and the ones I have met in the last 5yrs have caused me pause and to rethink my own Christianity... 

Now with all that said More power to them..These groups will never have the numbers, Funding or the benifits the Boy and Girls Scouts have.. They worked long and hard to become the organizations they are...

by Platinum Member on Sep. 20, 2013 at 3:56 PM

gee, I wonder if the BSA will try to sue them, too, for using the word "scout"

by Maya on Sep. 20, 2013 at 4:06 PM
I find it sad that people are so bigoted and homophobic that they have to form their own groups so their "precious little ones" won't be exposed to "amoral" gay people. With that said, more power to them. They has every right to form their own group.
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