January 29, 2014 Edition

Alternative to Boy Scouts

Trail Life emphasizes religion
BY ANTHONY VENCE

On Jan. 1, 2014, Trail Life USA (TLUSA) officially launched its outdoor adventure program for boys and young men nationwide.

TLUSA serves as a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and involves faith-based elements in their program.

The program shares the same philosophy as the BSA; teaching youth character development through outdoor activities. The main difference between the two groups is how religion influences the program’s curriculum and policies.

The BSA’s recent policy change that allows openly gay youth to enroll is the main reason for the creation of TLUSA.

Wes Stripling is a volunteer troop master for TLUSA’s upcoming TX-0233 troop based out of Bullard. Stripling was previously a pack leader for Pack 366 in Bullard, a group his son was enrolled in.

“It’s not as much the policy change, it’s what the policy went against; the oath and promise of boy scouts,” Stripling said.

The BSA oath states:

“On my honor I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”

Although the BSA itself is not a religious organization, it is apparent from the oath that there is a religious influence. Also, a majority of the charter groups who sponsor BSA are from a Christian church.

The BSA’s largest sponsor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commented on the recent policy change calling it a “thoughtful, good-faith effort” and said it would continue to support the BSA. The church enrolls just shy of a half million youths in the program nationwide.

There are others issues besides the policy change that led to Stripling and his son leaving BSA. He felt that the organization was missing the point of scouting and was more focused on bringing in revenue.

“We’ve been seeing the chipping away of the core values of scouting for some time, but I guess this was the last straw,” Stripling said. “To me, it seemed like we were being abandoned.”

Stripling estimates that around 24 youths have expressed interest in joining TX-0233, eight of which would leave Pack 366 to join.

Deron Smith is the director of public relations for the BSA. He believes the policy change has no affect on the core principles involved in scouting.

“The BSA believes every child deserves the opportunity to be a part of the scouting experience,” Smith said. “The BSA’s policy allows kids who sincerely want to be a part of scouting to experience this life-changing program while remaining true to the longstanding virtues of the Boy Scouts of America.”

According to Smith, only a few chartered organizations nationwide have decided not to renew their sponsorship to the troops.

Mark Maple, a leader for Pack 366, has decided to stay with the BSA.

“It was a difficult decision and one that all of our leaders and members agonized over after much prayerful thought,” Maple said. “I think each of our leaders sought the counsel of our own local pastors in Bullard and in the end we decided to stay with the local program and strengthen the local program.”

Troop TX-0233 of TLUSA will host a kick-off event at the Bullard Church of Christ on Feb. 3. The event is open to the public and anyone who is interested in learning about TLUSA.

Pack 366, chartered by the Bullard Southern Baptist Church, continues to enroll youth and stays actively involved in the community.

2014-01-29 / Front Page

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