Camping, crafts, and uniforms have always held a special allure for some kids; too bad the main sponsor of those activities, the Boy Scouts of America, excludes gays, atheists, and girls.

Never mind. Grab your tent stakes. Not only is there an enlightened alternative to the BSA, but the new gay-friendly group is growing at a feverish pace.

Mother Jones' Dana Liebelson reports that the upstart Navigators scouting group saw its number of national chapters expand to 45 today, from 19 just a year ago. Founded in 2003 by a disaffected Unitarian scoutmaster in East Harlem, Navigators USA sounds like a Jonathan Demme-directed version of Boy Scouts:


For the most part, Navigators participate in the same kinds of activities that Boy Scouts do: Camping, organic farming, hiking, tie dying, excursions to museums, and community service...But there is one big difference: The Navigators' Moral Compass, which expresses the group's philosophy that members shouldn't be discriminated against over gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. Bossert says the organization has openly gay chapter leaders, as well as board leaders and co-members.

"Navigators USA welcomes all people," the group's website states:

boys and girls and adults no matter what gender, race, lifestyle, ability, religious or lack of religious belief. We believe the greatest challenge for the future of our planet is whether we will learn how to get along with people different than ourselves.

Boy Scout membership, meanwhile, has dropped by one-third since the 1990s.