The leader of a Christian alternative to Boy Scouts that does not allow gays said the group was “horrified” when news organisations published a photo from one of its meetings in Texas that appeared to show a group of children giving the Nazi “Seig Heil” salute. John Stemberger, the chairman of the board for Trail Life USA, told Business Insider he initially saw the picture in a story that was published on MSN on Saturday.
“We were horrified when we saw the photo in question on the MSN site and immediately investigated the situation,” Stemberger said in a statement Monday. “This is what we learned… Many Boy Scout Troops have a tradition of ending their troop meetings with the boys gathering in a circle and then singing the song ‘Taps’ which is a slow ceremonial piece of music played or sung at the end of the day. The Boy Scouts that do this closing ceremony start singing the song with their hands raised straight into the air with the scout sign and then gradually lower their hands till they get to the end of the song when hands are at their side. This longstanding Boy Scout tradition was being followed with this Texas Trail Life troop using the Trail Life sign.”
Stemberger also said the “Trail Life sign/salute is a standard military salute using the full hand with all four fingers.”
Trail Life USA was launched in January as a “a faith-based outdoor adventure program” that “unapologetically reflects a Christian worldview.” It admits boys who “do not engage in or promote sexual immorality” and are “biologically male.” The organisation claims to have hundreds of units in 40 states and has attracted children and parents upset with The Boy Scouts of America’s decision to allow openly gay members.
The story and photo were syndicated by the Associated Press and were both published in multiple media outlets.
“Unfortunately the reporter (either intentionally or unintentionally) caught this photograph at the exact angle which makes their arms look like they are in some kind of a stationary mid-air salute– which they are not. We have contacted the Associated Press and demanded that they remove the photo from their archives. Unfortunately, they have not complied with our demand to date,” said Stemberger.
Stemberger said the photo was removed from MSN, but he noted “several unfriendly blogs online are likely still carrying the highly misleading photo.” The picture is also still availble for download from AP Images.