Fingers tapping on his palm, Clay Holland searched for the right word.
“Morals?” he asked. “No, no, not morals. Beliefs. That’s it. We just have a difference in beliefs.”
Holland and son Daniel are one of many father-son teams to migrate from the Boy Scouts of America to Trail Life since the Scouts chose to accept openly gay members last May.
The decision, Clay Holland says, was bittersweet in some ways.
“It was a cut-and-dry choice,” the former BSA leader said. “Our beliefs wouldn’t let us stay, but leaving friends behind was hard. We’d been with Boy Scouts for four years, and those relationships weren’t easy to say bye to.”
After he stopped meeting with BSA in May, Holland began searching for an alternative.
What he found was Trail Life USA, a Christian-based program that’s undergirded by biblical values and unapologetically reflects a Christian world view, according to official TLUSA membership standards.
“It stands for everything I want to be associated with,” says Daniel, a 10th-grader at Greenbrier High School. “Also, it’s exciting to be part of something unique, something new.”
With the help of both Hollands, the Augusta area’s first Trail Life group – Troop TL413 – was finalized March 5, and its inaugural gathering was held Monday at Grace Baptist Church in Evans.
Nearly two dozen boys attended the meeting, representing five churches.
“Grace Baptist is the troop’s charter organization, but boys from anywhere are welcome to join,” said John Marzano, the TL413 charter organization representative. “It’s an exciting time. Our goal is for this original troop to be the foundation for the Augusta area and that more troops will form because of what we’re doing at Grace Baptist.”
Like the Hollands, Marzano and his 15-year-old son, Mike, transferred from Boy Scouts to Trail Life.
But for high school students Daniel and Mike, leaving BSA wasn’t as simple as switching to another program.
It meant sacrificing years of progress.
“Daniel started Boy Scouts at 11, and for years we heard talk about becoming an Eagle Scout,” Holland said. “The (BSA) leadership kept telling us Eagle, Eagle, Eagle.”
From age 11 to 15, Daniel steadily climbed the BSA charts, making it as far as Life rank, a step below Eagle Scout.
Then, as his father says, “The Scouts changed beliefs.”
“So I asked Daniel what he wanted to do,” Holland said. “He was two merit badges and a project shy of becoming an Eagle Scout.”
Holland went silent, then moved his fingers two inches apart: “My son was this close.”
Still, Holland left the decision to Daniel.
“I chose to take a stand,” Daniel said. “Being an Eagle Scout might mean something to colleges, and it looks great on résumés, but why would I want the highest rank from an organization I don’t agree with? It would have been a pointless endeavor.”
In the end, Daniel remained Life rank, a title often viewed negatively in the Scout community.
“Life rank typically goes hand-in-hand with being lazy,” Daniel said. “Or not being able to get over that last hump. For me, it goes hand-in-hand with putting beliefs above anything. I couldn’t be more proud to say I’m Life for life. It’ll always remind me to take a stand.”