On the tail end of a recent morning hike at Faust Park in Chesterfield, second-grader Carter Beuc knelt on the ground and tried to lash a rock onto the end of a twig with a narrow vine. His buddy Gavin Rose knelt next to him.
Was it a tool? A weapon? "He's making a golf club," Gavin reported.
While this seemed like a typi-cal scout outing, these young-sters are part of a growing group in the United States that's taking a different approach to scouting.
The children in this group, Otter and Timberwolf scouts, are members of the Baden-Powell Service Association, which has one foot in traditional scouting and another in more liberal ideals. It accepts members and leaders of both sexes, regardless of religious beliefs or sexual ori-entation.
There are 16 chartered groups nationwide with about 128 mem-bers.
If the name Baden-Powell sounds familiar, it's because Robert Baden-Powell is the founder of the scouting move-ment and what eventually became the Boy Scouts of Amer-ica. But the Baden-Powell Ser-vice Association isn't affiliated with the Boy Scouts - it's a worldwide organization of its own that accepts members of all ages. It formed in the United Kingdom in 1970 after its mem-bers felt that Boy Scouts were abandoning the traditional, back-to-basics ideals Baden-Powell had established decades earlier.
Its American branch is based in Washington, Missouri, the home of software engineer David Atch-ley.
Atchley, 37, had been involved in Boy Scouts all his life. He earned his Eagle award and became a Cubmaster for his son's pack. But he was upset with the direction the Boy Scouts organi-zation was taking. The Boy Scout promise includes a duty to God, though uniform emblems of many different religions are allowed, and the organization does not allow openly gay lead-ers, atheists or agnostics.
Atchley, who is an atheist, thought he could create an inclu-sion policy for his pack.
He decided to go to the local Boy Scout council to see what they thought.
"I was basically told over the phone that if I put that policy in place, they would revoke our charter," he said.
Atchley later made the diffi-cult decision to return his Eagle award.
He eventually learned about the Baden-Powell Service Associ-ation, which formed in the United States in 2006 but had only an adult component. Atchley decided to create a youth branch, and became commissioner in 2009. He issued charters to sev-eral new groups within the last few months.
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