Our View: One step forward, one step back

DKS Editors

Summary: A new scouting group has broken off from the Boy Scouts of America in opposition to this year’s decision to admit openly gay scouts. While this group has every right to secede, we can’t help but consider this a step backward.

The Boy Scouts of America made history in May when the organization lifted its ban on openly gay members. The vote, which altered 103 years of Boy Scouts policy, stirred many emotions – positive and negative — within the Scout program and left many wondering what the future of the organization would look like.

Three months later, the Boy Scouts are seeing the first major result of the decision to admit openly gay scouts. Trail Life USA, a splinter group describing itself as “a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts,” announced its presence Friday with an inaugural convention in Nashville, Tenn.

According to its website, Trail Life USA is open to “biologically male children.” Trail Life leaders must sign a statement of faith and values, promoting purity, service, stewardship, and integrity. LGBT scouts will be allowed in, barring engagement in or promotion of any sexual behavior. Youth members will be taught that sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin.

John Stemberger, chairman of the board for Trail Life USA, was one of the key opponents against the Scouts’ decision to become more inclusive. Stemberger, an Eagle Scout and former Scoutmaster, left the Scouts following the lift on the ban.

“Real men value truth over tradition,” Stemberger said in an address to the crowd in Nashville. “Real men value principle over program, and they value integrity over institutions.”

While we respect the rights of Stemberger and Trail Life USA to take what they consider the truthful and moral action, we are sorry that in 2013 we still find groups in this country who would rather move to a new playground than learn to get along. The decision to allow openly LGBT boys into the Boy Scouts was a major step forward, not only for the organization but also for the nation’s civil rights. Now, Trail Life USA is taking a step back.

We wonder what this split means for the future of the Boy Scouts. How will parents explain to their son why he has to join Trail Life USA while all of his friends are joining Boy Scouts? Trail Life Eagle Scouts (or whatever their equivalent may be) might graduate Scouts with purity and character, but aren’t compassion and acceptance crucial values, too?

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board, whose names are listed above.