An inaugural conference for Trail Life USA, a Christian and anti-gay scouting group that intends to serve as an alternative to the Boy Scout program, took place this weekend, drawing in over 1,000 attendees -- including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and a George W. Bush impersonator.
The event took place at the Sheraton City Music hotel in Nashville, Tenn., and was sponsored by OnMyHonor, a splinter group that has long been an outspoken opponent of the Boy Scouts' decision to repeal its ban on gay youth scout members.
"Trail Life USA will be inclusive of boys, regardless of religion, race, national origin or socioeconomic status, and accept boys who are experiencing same-sex attractions or gender confusion," read a statement from Trail Life USA. "However, it 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."
After long-term efforts by activists seeking institutional reform, the Boy Scouts announced in May that they would be revising their membership criteria to eliminate the ban on openly gay youth scout members. A backlash from the historically religiously-affiliated organization came immediately, with parents pulling their children out of the program, gay people being equated with pedophiles and defectors from the program attempting to establish numerous alternative anti-gay organizations for those opposing the repeal of the ban -- such as Trail Life USA.
The program is reportedly set to function around a structure that parallels that of the Boy Scouts, but with a focus on both "sexual purity" and adherence to “a standard statement of Christian values." Trail Life USA will also allegedly incorporate values and beliefs of the American Heritage Girls, a Christian-based Girl Scout Alternative formed over a decade ago.
The Boy Scouts released a statement in response to the formation of Trail Life USA that reads: "It's inappropriate for us to discuss other organizations, but we're pelased that our members remain committed locally and nationally."
Trail Life USA is expected to formally launch on January 1, 2014.