Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

No longer loyal to Scouts, boys join Trail Life

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 Boy Scouts for Trail Life, which officially launched just this year.

"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 the Boy Scouts 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 with 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 antidiscrimination policies. Boy Scout 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. The group'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 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, the Boy Scouts' 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.

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

Comments
CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CLEARWATER — The heads of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards will hold emergency meetings in the coming days to consider firing president and CEO Edward Peachey. Jack Geller, board chairman of CareerSource Pinellas, and Dick Peck, chairman of ...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Former Florida Rep. Robert Wallace jumps from Tampa overpass

Former Florida Rep. Robert Wallace jumps from Tampa overpass

TAMPA — Former Florida state Rep. Robert Wallace ended his life Monday night by jumping from a Dale Mabry Highway overpass, records show. He was 65.At least one witness saw Wallace plunge 40 to 50 feet onto Gunn Highway, according to a Hillsborough C...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Toymakers dive into toilet for poospiration; Rev. Billy Graham dies at 99; MS-13 sweep keeps most basic details secret; more in U.S. news

Toymakers dive into toilet for poospiration; Rev. Billy Graham dies at 99; MS-13 sweep keeps most basic details secret; more in U.S. news

New YorkDiving into toilet for poospirationToymakers have gone to the toilet for their latest creations. Mattel’s upcoming Flushin’ Frenzy game sends a brown plastic poop flying into the air. And its rival, Hasbro stuck with the potty humor after its...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Time line1918: Born into a strict Presbyterian family near Charlotte, N.C.1934: Accepts Christ at Charlotte revival by traveling evangelist Mordecai Ham.1936: Enrolls in Bob Jones College, Cleveland, Tenn.1937: Unhappy at Bob Jones, he enrolls in Flo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
At presidents’ sides

At presidents’ sides

Updated: 1 hour ago
Meet the Andean god of prosperity; U.K. top court finds police liable for failings in massive rapist case; more in world news

Meet the Andean god of prosperity; U.K. top court finds police liable for failings in massive rapist case; more in world news

BoliviaThis year’s god of prosperity is ...Juan Ricaldi may not yet be rich, but he’s the very image of the god of prosperity and abundance in the eyes of celebrating devotees in La Paz. Ekeko is rendered as a short, pudgy, mustached man who wears tr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Shuttle service planned for BMX Gator Nationals in Oldsmar

OLDSMAR — The city has partnered with the PSTA and IS offering a free shuttle during this weekend’s USA BMX Gator Nationals at the Oldsmar Sports Complex.Public parking will be available in the east parking lot at City Hall, 100 State Street W. Other...
Updated: 3 hours ago
St. Pete's World Liquors sign will live on at new home

St. Pete's World Liquors sign will live on at new home

A local landmark for a half century isn't coming down for good.
Updated: 3 hours ago