Trail Life USA

Trail Life USA (TLUSA or commonly Trail Life) is a faith-based non-aligned Scouting organization, providing youth mentorship and character development to more than 26,000 boys in the United States.[3][4][5][6] The organization was founded in 2013 in response to changes in the membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to allow the participation of openly gay youth.[7][8] All charters of Trail Life USA must pledge to follow a "Statement of Faith"; the organization is Trinitarian and Christian. However, youths of all or no religious beliefs are allowed to join, but individual Charter Organizations may limit Troop membership to boys of a certain faith or membership in a certain organization.[9]

Trail Life USA
HeadquartersBelton, South Carolina
CountryUnited States
FoundedJune 2013 (2013-06)
Membership26,000+ (January 2017)[1]
Chief Executive OfficerMark Hancock[2]

Background 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.[10][11][12] In May 2013, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted to change its membership policy to allow youth of any sexual orientation.[13] Following the vote, John Stemberger changed the mission of to start a new alternative Scouting program.[14]

Following the vote, the Faith Based Boys (FBB) was founded.[15] In May 2013, American Heritage Girls (AHG) joined the FBB.[16] FBB official Thomas Dillingham indicated that the group would start accepting applications in August for youth memberships and group leaders.[17], 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.[14] The AHG cofounder Patti Garibay was invited to the Kentucky meeting as an advisor.[18] The organization would be based on the AHG program.[14]


Trail Life motto/slogan
Walk Worthy

— NPR[4][19]

Trail Life USA was formed in July 2013.[19] 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.[2] Over 300 names were considered for the new organization.[13] The group selected Trail Life USA as its name[13] 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."[4]

In October 2013, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod leaders indicated that member churches may affiliate with any Scouting program including Trail Life.[20]

2017 700 26,000[1]

Richard Mathews, BSA's former general counsel, joined Trail Life USA as its acting general counsel.[22]

Trail Life USA reported that almost 500 troops were pre-chartered by the January 1, 2014 official launch date.[21] After its first full year of operation, Trail Life USA had 524 officially chartered troops in 48 states and just under 20,000 members.[3]


The Trailman Oath
On my Honor I will do my best to serve God and my country; to respect authority; to be a good steward of creation; and to treat others as I want to be treated."

The Trailman's Handbook, page xiv

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[19]

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.[23] Trail Life USA's highest award is the Freedom Award[19] for which the potential recipients must choose a "major" and two "minor" subjects [23] and lead the development and implementation of a community-oriented Servant Leadership Project.


  1. Butts, Charlie (January 10, 2017). "In third year, youth leadership group flourishes". American Family News. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  2. Wetzstein, Cheryl (September 8, 2014). "Boy Scouts alternative created after gay flap picks up 14,000 members in first year". Washington Times. Retrieved September 10, 2014.
  3. Stemberger, John (January 7, 2015). "10 Positive Trends Christians Should Thank God For". Charisma News. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
  4. Lohr, Kathy (September 9, 2013). "Trail Life USA, The 'Other' Boy Scouts Of America". NPR. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  5. 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.
  6. Kumar, Anugrah (September 8, 2013). "Christian Values-Based Alternative to Boy Scouts Launched". Christian Post. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  7. Colbert, Chuck (November 19, 2013). "Former Defense Secretary Gates to lead Boy Scouts". Windy City Times. Retrieved December 16, 2013. In all, more than 1.9 million people have joined petition campaigns seeking a complete end to BSA discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  8. 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.
  9. "Frequently Asked Questions". Trail Life USA. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  10. Payne, Ed (September 9, 2013). "Trail Life USA launches a Boy Scout alternative". CNN. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
  11. Davis, John W. (March 23, 2013). "Boy Scouts launching coalition to keep gays, lesbians out". Archived from the original on May 24, 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  12. Respaut, Robin (July 10, 2013). "Faith-based group to start Boy Scouts rival". MSN. Reuters. Archived from the original on July 15, 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
  13. Wetzstein, Cheryl (September 7, 2013). "Boy Scout alternative, Trail Life USA, launches 'premier' Christian group for boys". The Washington Times. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
  14. Wiggins, Kimberly (July 16, 2013). "Orlando group creates faith-based alternative to Boy Scouts". WOFL-FOX35. Archived from the original on January 1, 2015. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
  15. Leitsinger, Miranda (July 9, 2013). "Faith-based group starting alternative to Boy Scouts – will allow gay youth, adults". NBC News. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  16. Token, Jody (May 2013). "American Heritage Girls join Faith-Based Boys Coalition" (PDF). American Heritage Girls. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 4, 2013. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
  17. Gast, Phil; Botelho, Greg; Sayers, Devon M. (May 24, 2013). "Boy Scouts to allow gay youths to join". Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  18. Butts, Charlie (June 14, 2013). "Christian girls' group founder advises new boys' scouting group". American Family News Network. Archived from the original on June 18, 2013.
  19. Gross, Natalie (September 22, 2013). "Faith-based alternative to Boy Scouts emerging". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. A-J Media. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
  20. Wetzstein, Cheryl (October 7, 2013). "Lutherans OK congregations affiliating with either Boy Scouts or Trail Life". The Washington Times. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
  21. Banks, Adelle M. (December 31, 2013). "Boy Scouts Christian alternative launches with 500 troops". Religion News. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  22. Parks, Scott (December 15, 2013). "After Boy Scouts' vote to admit gay youths, rival group takes root". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  23. Merchant, Nomaan (March 1, 2014). "Trail Life courts those who oppose Boy Scouts' acceptance of gays". Mercury News. Associated Press. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
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