JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CBS Tampa/AP) – A new scouting organization has begun operations after the Boy Scouts of America officially began allowing for homosexual members.
Trial Life USA announced the formal start of operations on New Year’s Day – the same day gay boys and men were officially allowed to start joining BSA.
“Nobody has turned into gremlins because [of the decision], and so I look forward to continuing to work with them,” Larry Wagner, a leader who is recruiting members and host churches for Trail Life USA in Northeast Florida, was quoted as saying by CBS affiliate WTEV-47. “But as a Christian, I see Trail Life USA as a way to be more explicit with my Christianity and imparting that aspect of it as they grow into manhood.”
Those who wish to hold leadership positions in the organization are said to have to agree to a statement of values and faith – part of which stipulates that the interested party define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
All the same, Trail Life USA describes itself as inclusive.
“While the program is undergirded by Biblical values and unapologetically reflects a Christian worldview, there is also a clearly defined inclusion policy for youth,” the organization’s official website states. “Accordingly, all boys are welcome irrespective of religion, race, national origin or socio-economic status. Our goal is for parents and families of every faith to be able to place their boys in a youth program that endeavors to provide moral consistency and ethical integrity in its adult leaders.”
The site additionally notes, “Our vision is to be the premier national character development organization for young men which produces Godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens.”
Trail Life USA is not the only religious organization showing disapproval of the BSA ruling – some churches are also said to be dropping their sponsorship of Scout units because of the new policy. Additionally, some families are already said to be switching membership to the more conservative organization.
But massive defections haven’t materialized and most major sponsors, including the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches, are maintaining ties.
The new policy regarding homosexual members was approved in May, with support from 60 percent of the 1,400 voting members of the BSA’s National Council. The vote followed bitter nationwide debate, and was accompanied by an announcement that the BSA would continue to exclude openly gay adults from leadership positions.
Under the new membership policy, youths can no longer be barred from the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts or coed Venturers program solely on the basis of sexual orientation. However, gay Scouts will face some limitations.
“Any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting,” says one BSA document. “No member may use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda, including on the matter of sexual orientation.”
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