Trail Life, Chatting in the living room one night, Ron Orr gave his 15-year-old son Andrew a choice: He could stick with the Boy Scouts of America and his mission to become an Eagle Scout, or he could join Trail Life USA — the new Christian-based alternative that excludes openly gay boys.
This was no small decision. Four generations of Orr men had been Eagles, including Ron and Andrew’s older brother. Andrew had spent years working toward Scouting’s highest rank, and was just months from reaching it.
But the Boy Scouts had decided to admit gays, and Ron Orr, a tall, soft-spoken man with a firm handshake, is clear about his Christian faith and what it says about homosexuality: It is a sin that cannot be tolerated.
His son agreed. He would forgo the century-old BSA for Trail Life, which officially launched just last month.
“It felt like I’d be hitting something higher than Eagle in terms of achievement,” Andrew said, in an interview.
So Orr and his son left BSA and set out with other families to build a new organization based on what they believe to be Christian values. Orr is a regional organizer who speaks to churches and groups about Trail Life. His son now aspires to achieve a Freedom Award, the new group’s highest rank.
The Orrs and others in Trail Life say they are fighting for the traditional values of Christianity and of Scouting, which includes a command in the Scout Oath to be “morally straight” — even as a changing America grows more accepting of gays and gay marriage. They are leaving an organization central to many of their upbringings with heavy hearts, but also with the belief that the Scouting they knew no longer exists.
“As Christians from a scriptural basis, we love all folks, but the Scripture is very clear that being homosexual is a sin,” Ron Orr said in an interview. “We’ve got to be able to hold a strong line and set a consistent example for our young men.”