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New group opposing Boy Scouts gay youth policy has 2 Arizona units

Jan 3, 2014

Arizona Republic

Hating gays and atheists are family values??? Well that's what these folks in the Trail Life USA seem to think. They seem to be angry with the Boy Scouts for ceasing their illogical hate of gays.

By Danika Worthington and Chris Hrapsky The Arizona Republic-12 News Breaking News Team Thu Jan 2, 2014 1:31 PM

As the Boy Scouts of America opened their ranks to openly gay teens on Wednesday, a new scouting organization has started in opposition to the new inclusive policy and includes two Arizona units.

Trail Life USA touts itself as a Christian organization for boys ages 5-17 based out of Florida that started Jan. 1, the same day that Boy Scouts of America allowed openly gay boys to be scouts. It holds the same emphasis on the outdoors, scouting and leadership as the Boy Scouts, but unlike the older institution, Trail Life USA’s membership contract does not allow for openly gay teens, according to its website.

“We have a statement of faith and as I said before, we believe in the marriage between one man and one woman,” said Larry Altman, an Arizona Trail Life USA organizer.

In May, the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow openly gay scouts after pressure from some scouts and outside companies that donate to the organization.

The Trail Life membership statement reads, “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 and therefore inconsistent with the values and principles of the program.”

Both Trail Life USA and Boy Scouts of America do not allow lesbian and gay parents to be involved in scouting.

Trail Life USA has roughly 425 units with an average of 20 members across the nation, Chairman John Stemberger told NBC News.

Arizona has two units, Altman said.

Former Arizona scout leader Michael Ybarra said he left the Boy Scouts and joined Trail Life after members voted to change the inclusion policy. Ybarra is an Eagle Scout, the highest rank achievable in Boy Scouts.

“What I want to instill in my son is we need to have an organization that holds true to the leadership qualities and tenants of that organization regardless of what popular culture dictates,” Ybarra said.

Boy Scouts of America reported only losing 2 percent of their 116,000 troops and packs and still have 2.3 million members.

Zach Wahls, co-founder of Scouts for Equality, is a straight eagle scout with lesbian parents who had gay scouts in his troop.

“I know very well that being gay is not a conflict in being a good scout,” Wahls said.

Scouts for Equality started in June 2012. Wahls said the organization of Trail Life has been the biggest response after the Boy Scouts changed their policy.

Wahls said Scouts for Equality wants to make sure scouting “is an experience not being denied to young men because they happen to be gay.”