Boychuk: In the Boy Scouts, tradition matters
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American liberals are very much in favor of freedom of speech and freedom of association — up to the point that their own pieties are offended. Then it’s war.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts had a First Amendment right to exclude homosexuals from membership, liberal groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the AstroTurf (fake grassroots) group Scouting for All made it their mission to cripple the Scouts and attack their operations at every turn.
As a result, high-profile donors such as the United Way withdrew their support from the century-old organization, some former Eagles Scouts ostentatiously returned their badges, and a number of cities tried to ban the Boy Scouts from using public facilities.
Now, halting donations and returning one’s merit badges is one thing. But those cities’ efforts to squelch the Scouts were flatly unconstitutional. In fact, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December shot down San Diego’s craven decade-old move to deprive the Scouts of their facilities on Balboa Island.
Despite winning in court every time, the Boy Scouts may surrender anyway. What a shame.
The policy change the Boy Scouts of America is considering originated with the national organization’s executive board, which includes several corporate CEOs who are themselves under enormous pressure from those aforementioned liberal groups. In the end, money may matter more than principle.
If the Scouts ultimately decide to let local chapters determine their membership rules, three things will happen. First, the ACLU and its allies will concentrate their fire on small scouting chapters that lack the resources of the national organization to defend themselves. Second, churches will abandon the organization in droves.
Third, and finally, a unique organization with a century-long tradition of teaching boys to be self-reliant men — “physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight” — will have been lost.
But postmodern liberal pieties will be well affirmed. Apparently, that’s the only thing that matters.
Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.