Trail Life USA
|Trail Life USA|
|Headquarters||Belton, South Carolina|
|Membership||26,000+ (January 2017)|
|Chief Executive Officer||Mark Hancock|
Trail Life USA (TLUSA or commonly Trail Life) is a faith-based non-aligned Scouting organization that provides youth mentorship and character development to more than 26,000 boys in the United States. The organization was founded in 2013 in reaction to changes in the membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to allow the participation of openly gay youth. All charters of Trail Life USA must pledge to follow a "Statement of Faith"; the organization states that non-Christians and those who affirm homosexuality are not eligible to lead or charter in the group as these beliefs contradict their "Statement of Faith". However, youths of all or no religious beliefs are allowed to join.
OnMyHonor.net was a group formed by John Stemberger to oppose the proposed membership policy change in March 2013 and consisted of parents, Scoutmasters, Eagle Scouts and other Scouting leaders. In May 2013, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted to change its membership policy to allow youth of any sexual orientation. Following the vote, John Stemberger changed the mission of OnMyHonor.net to start a new alternative Scouting program.
Following the vote, the Faith Based Boys (FBB) was founded. In May 2013, American Heritage Girls (AHG) joined the FBB. FBB official Thomas Dillingham indicated that the group would start accepting applications in August for youth memberships and group leaders.
OnMyHonor.net, Faith Based Boys and other regional and national groups, TrailHead USA and Frontier Service Corps, joined together to form the new group. A leadership meeting was held in Louisville, Kentucky on June 29, 2013 to discuss forming a new group. The AHG cofounder Patti Garibay was invited to the Kentucky meeting as an advisor. The organization would be based on the AHG program.
Trail Life USA was formed in July 2013. On September 6–7, 2013, a national convention was held for the new group where chartering rules, programs, rankings, and uniforms were adopted and its name revealed. Over 300 names were considered for the new organization. The group selected Trail Life USA as its name and chose to start in January 2014 with an expected 1000 incubation troops formed by then. It was also revealed in September that Trail Life would be partnering with American Heritage Girls. During the national convention announcing Trail Life USA, Stemberger told the audience "Real men value truth over tradition," and "Real men value principle over program, and they value integrity over institutions."
Richard Mathews, BSA’s former general counsel, joined Trail Life USA as its acting general counsel.
Trail Life USA reported that almost 500 troops were pre-chartered by the January 1, 2014 official launch date. By March 1, 2014, the organization was in 40 states with 600 troops registered or in the process of registration, and with half the members not previously being Boy Scouts.
After its first full year of operation (as of January 7, 2015), Trail Life USA has 524 troops in 48 states and just under 20,000 members. Another 300 troops are in the process of becoming officially chartered.
Trailmen fall into various categories based on the grade they are in corresponding to their age:
- Woodlands Trails, grades K-5 (elementary school)
- Navigators, grades 6-8 (middle school)
- Adventurers, grades 9-12 (high school)
- Guidon, age 18 through 25 years
The Trail Life salute is based on the Military salute while its sign is a five finger sign similar to the three finger Scout sign. Trail Life USA's highest award is the Freedom Award for which the potential recipients must choose a "major" and two "minor" subjects  and a community based, large scale service project.
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- Stemberger, John (January 7, 2015). "10 Positive Trends Christians Should Thank God For". Charisma News. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
- Lohr, Kathy (September 9, 2013). "Trail Life USA, The 'Other' Boy Scouts Of America". NPR. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
- Salmons, Stephanie (May 19, 2016). "Trail Life teaches leadership, character". McLean County News. Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. Archived from the original on May 22, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
- Kumar, Anugrah (8 September 2013). "Christian Values-Based Alternative to Boy Scouts Launched". Christian Post. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
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In all, more than 1.9 million people have joined Change.org petition campaigns seeking a complete end to BSA discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- Kennedy, Dan (May 24, 2013). "The Boy Scouts' Half-Measure May Hasten the End of Discrimination". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
More than 60 percent of the organization's national leadership voted to approve a policy ending discrimination against openly gay scouts while keeping in place the ban against gay adult leaders.
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- Parks, Scott (December 15, 2013). "After Boy Scouts' vote to admit gay youths, rival group takes root". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
- Merchant, Nomaan (March 1, 2014). "Trail Life courts those who oppose Boy Scouts' acceptance of gays". Mercury News. Associated Press. Retrieved March 3, 2014.