EDITORIAL: Boy Scouts stay straight

Freedom not to associate is an important American right

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In the Boy Scout oath, a young man promises to keep himself morally straight. Despite pressure from homosexual activists, that pledge will continue to mean something.

On Tuesday, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that they would retain their policy excluding homosexuals from membership and leadership positions. The announcement followed a two-year review by a select committee, which came to the unanimous conclusion that it was “absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts.”

The rule had come under fire from homosexual groups recently after Jennifer Tyrrell was forced out of the leadership of her son’s Tiger Scout den because she is a lesbian. Also, last weekend, Eric Jones, a 19-year-old Eagle Scout, was fired from being a counselor at a Boy Scout camp in Missouri after revealing his homosexual preference.

Homosexual activists claim this is discrimination, but the dispute is actually over the freedom to associate. This was made plain in the 2000 Supreme Court case, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, which directly addressed the scouts’ policy. The high court held that a New Jersey public-accommodations law did not require BSA to reinstate a homosexual assistant scoutmaster since that application of the law conflicted with the First Amendment right of freedom of association.

“We have long understood as implicit in the right to engage in activities protected by the First Amendment a corresponding right to associate with others in pursuit of a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious and cultural ends,” then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for the majority. The court reasoned that the state forcing an organization to accept members it doesn’t want may fatally impair the pursuit of the group’s intended goals. The majority also stated flatly that freedom of association “plainly presupposes a freedom not to associate.”

BSA is a private organization that espouses a moral code. The BSA leadership believes that discussing matters of sexuality is best left to families and spiritual advisers and has no place in scouting. Many parents are concerned about the potential influence of open homosexuals over their sons during their formative ages. BSA provides a safe space for them to send their children without worrying that they would become captive to a political agenda that parents object to on moral grounds.

Homosexuals should stop trying to force themselves on the Boy Scouts. Nothing prevents them from joining alternative scouting groups like Campfire that do not exclude them, or starting their own competing organizations. Parents with concerns about the perceived leftward drift of the Girl Scouts founded alternatives such as the American Heritage Girls and Frontier Girls, which focus on patriotism, traditional values and community service.

In the United States, there are conflicting views over morality, decency and ways of life. Families need to be able to associate with private groups that affirm their chosen orientations and reinforce the moral lessons they seek to inculcate. Promoting this type of diversity and freedom of choice is the American way.

The Washington Times

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