Three months after the Boy Scouts of America's national council voted to allow openly gay youths to be members, a new group has announced its name and logo. The Facebook page for Trail Life USA, which held its inaugural leadership convention this past weekend in Nashville, says the group "is a Christian adventure, character, and leadership movement for young men." Its mission "is to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure."
The group's Web site says membership is open to all "biologically male children" under the age of 18 who meet the group's membership requirements. A press release announcing the launch says Trail Life USA has "a strong inclusion policy for youth; all boys are welcome to the program regardless of religion, race, national origin or socio-economic status." In a statement reported by CNN, the group says it will "accept boys who are experiencing same-sex attractions or gender confusion."
But there is a caveat. The same reported statement says the group "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." The group's Web site also stipulates that "in terms of sexual identification and behavior, we affirm that any sexual activity outside the context of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful before God." The new organization will also require all adult leaders to sign a statement of faith and values that includes a similar statement about marriage.
The alternative group is being formed amid the reported decision by some churches not to renew their relationship with the Boy Scouts following the change in policy. The BSA has said that 99 percent of its chartered partners were sticking with the organization and that other community organizations have stepped up in cases where a church dropped its program. It's too soon, though, to know how much of an impact the new organization will have on the Scouts' membership: The new BSA policy doesn't go into place until January 1, and Trail Life won't officially launch until next year, either.
Given that one of the stated goals of the Trail Life group is to guide young men to "lead with integrity," here's my question: How do you teach young men to be leaders when some of them aren't able to be open about their authentic selves? That's one of the first rules of leadership, after all--to know yourself, and to act in a way that is true to your own principles. Yet it doesn't appear to be an option for every boy who joins this new group.
Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.