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November 15, 2004

Well, I Feel Safer Now

It's a good thing we have the ACLU. Otherwise, the military might be able to offer explicit support to an organization that teaches uniformed boys teamwork, survival skills, and... reverence. (Yeah, the type that involves God.)

The Pentagon has agreed to warn military bases worldwide that they should not directly sponsor Boy Scout troops, partially resolving claims that the government has improperly supported a group that requires members to believe in God.

The settlement, announced Monday, came in a 1999 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which says American military units have sponsored hundreds of Boy Scout troops. ...

The settlement does not resolve other ACLU claims involving government spending that benefits the Boy Scouts, such as money used to prepare a Virginia military base for the Boy Scout Jamboree and grants used by state and local governments to benefit the Boy Scouts, [ACLU legal hit-man Adam] Schwartz said.

These aren't even lawsuits to secure similar recognition for similar groups; they simply target the Boy Scouts for the reason that it has a religious foundation. By what insane definition is that not religious discrimination? Here's a quick and easy test for anybody who's in doubt about the objective, here: would the ACLU object to a similar group that didn't have the religious principles? No.

So when are people going to get sick of these radical fundamentalists?

Posted by Justin Katz at November 15, 2004 7:00 PM
Culture
Comments

The Boy Scouts are free to exlude gay youth because they are a private organization. However, I don't want my tax money going to support such discrimination.

Would you favor the government supporting the Boy Scouts if the Scouts exluded Catholic youth from its membership?

I'm a former Boy Scout but I'm dismayed that they consider gay youth unfit for their organization.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at November 16, 2004 2:51 AM

Joel: I am highly offended and insulted that my religion has just been analogized to a sexual perversion.

Posted by: ELC at November 16, 2004 9:19 AM

All of our tax dollars support a LOT of things we may personally abhor. You may abhor the war in Iraq, while I abhor abortion -- often for religious reasons -- and yet we still pay our taxes and vote our consciences. So why should a simple "belief in God" disqualify an organization from the support of We The People?

Posted by: Marty at November 16, 2004 9:30 AM

So why should a simple "belief in God" disqualify an organization from the support of We The People?
Ahh -- the anti establishment clause in the Constitution, perhaps? And by the way, don't worry about the Army's support of you right wing fundies, it is alive and well. Just come down to FT Hood Texas every fourth of July and see the God and Country Concert. Full Army Band in Dress Blues playing background music for Baptist Holy Rollers collecting money by the KFC bucketfull, all tax exempt. An Army Band playing with the backdrop of a ten foot cross, with uniformed soldiers bowing on cue before the cross and the Christian flag. Yes, thank you ACLU, I will continue to support the organization as long as it battles the hypocrasy of the radical religious right.

Posted by: harv at November 16, 2004 9:57 AM

Joel,

In line with Marty's point, if you want to talk about stripping the allocation of our tax dollars to a strict application to direct purposes of government, well, we might have much about which to agree. But I don't think that's what you're talking about. All you're doing is replacing discrimination for discrimination.

Because a group meant to support and provide for boys considers it incidental to its purpose to exclude homosexuals, you are saying that it must be forcibly removed from all interaction with public organizations. Well, it considers the exclusion of girls incidental to its purpose, as well, ought that to have disqualified the group all along?

Notwithstading the misreading of the Establishment Clause that Harv expresses, it's simply unconstitutional religious discrimination for "a simple 'belief in God' disqualify an organization from the support of We The People." I remind you that the First Amendment continues as follows:

... or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

We could argue about what amounts to a prohibition of free exercise of religion, but if your standard for "establishment" is the support of any individual or group in an official position — from President to first grade teacher — then the bar is set pretty high for the standard of suppression, as well. Rephrase in free speech terms: what if a public organization banned a group for reasons of speech? (Make that "any speech besides religious speech," because you'd consider that "establishment," too.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 16, 2004 10:17 AM

Justin,

The Boy Scouts claim they can do whatever they want because they are a private organization. Fine. But now, I, who consider discrimination against gays immoral must see my government money used to support such discrimination?

Posted by: Joel Thomas at November 16, 2004 10:29 AM

We really should be thinking about these things in terms of micromanagement of government agencies. The people, with regards to their tax dollars, cannot micromanage everything. The war in Iraq was given above as an example of what someone might abhor, but still pays taxes for. But we all agree that a foreign policy (ie, having one) is a good thing for the government to have and so we fund it, regardless of our moral convictions. Likewise with abortion; we all agree that healthcare is something that should be provided wherever possible. But as a society we've decided that patients and doctors should be empowered to choose what is the best option for them. This is why we fight for things like reduction of power of HMOs and prohibiting employers from deciding what procedures you can and cannot have, whether or not we are morally opposed to them.

In this manner, we as a society have to decide to what extent we want our tax dollars to go towards religious organizations. We already agree that they should be tax exempt because they provided necessary societal positives like charity work. But do we support religious indoctrination? Should tax dollars go to encourage people to behave or think in a way that some taxpayers find objectionable? It's not simply "belief in God" that is the problem. It's belief in God as a prerequisite to and integral part of an organization that many people find objectionable to fund with taxpayer dollars.

Posted by: Michael at November 16, 2004 12:54 PM

Joel: Yes. As long as you want to live in a democratic republic with rule by majority. Now, if you want to live in a socialist democracy with rule by experts, the answer might be different.

Posted by: ELC at November 16, 2004 12:55 PM

What ELC said: if a majority of the population want to make it clear to their representatives that they do not want the DoD to interact with the Boy Scouts in any form whatsoever, they can do so and said representatives can pass legislation to that effect.

But there is no legal warrant for prohibiting support of Boy Scout troops based solely on the fact that the group professes a belief in God.

Posted by: Mike S. at November 16, 2004 1:18 PM

Joel,

Okay then, as I said above, do you support, as a general principle, the view that citizens oughtn't to be made to finance anything that they deem immoral? As I've suggested, that's an argument with which I'd be sympathetic.

-----

Michael,

We two also have common ground. I'm averse to micromanagement myself and consider that point of view to be the reason that the First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law." No law. One way or the other. That means states and towns can manage their moral policies themselves. (And with no law that is necessary to follow, I imagine the Executive branch would have final say over what activities the military can and cannot support.)

But that's not what you mean, is it? You mean to force us to erase all nuance and ignore all local consensus by deciding up-or-down on moral questions at the federal level. Well fine. I don't recall the current degree of "separation" ever coming up for a vote, so I'd suggest that our society has clearly not made the decision vis-a-vis indoctrination. Frankly, I disagree that supporting the Boy Scouts is tantamount to supporting indoctrination. As I said above, the position on homosexuality is incidental to the goal of providing for boys.

But if the aversion is to supporting the indoctrination of a view that "many people find objectionable," then perhaps we ought to reconsider support for groups and policies that suggest that open and active homosexuality is perfectly alright. After all, that requires a worldview inimical to a probable majority.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 16, 2004 1:19 PM

BTW, my own pet theory about the assault on the Boy Scouts is that it is an assault on America's strength because it is an assault on the military. I don't know the exact numbers, but I'm sure an awful lot of current military personnel have also been Scouts. Weaken the Scouts, weaken the military, weaken the country. Do I really think that's what the ACLU wants to do? You bet.

Posted by: ELC at November 16, 2004 1:42 PM

I don't understand why people view the Boy Scouts' policy of not allowing gay men to be troop leaders as discrimination. I don't want a gay man leading Boy Scout troops for the same reason I don't want a heterosexual man leading Girl Scout troops.

Call me crazy or bigoted, but I just don't think it's a good idea.

Posted by: Robin S. at November 16, 2004 3:57 PM

The Boy Scouts didn't just enact a ban on gay Scout leaders. Their ban extends to the youth, as well.

So when many states decided in favor of segregation, their legal act of approving segregation made it moral?

The Boy Scouts are still free to meet on base to the extent that other civilian organizations are also allowed to meet. Also, members of the military are free to use their personal time to support the Scouts.

ELC,

I can't stop you from calling my brother a pervert. I also can't insist that you invite a gay person into your home or to lunch. I can't require you to be friends with gays. Churches have the right to ban gays, as many Southern Baptist churches used to do. Nevertheless, I don't want to see government-endorsed discrimination.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at November 16, 2004 4:15 PM

Remember me ….

As a gay rights supporter, I still find the ACLU’s position ridiculous for the reasons Justin and others have mentioned.

I disagree with the position of the Boy Scouts regarding homosexuality but that is no legitimate reason for the government to end support of them. The Boy Scouts do many many good things. They are a fine organization. It is my opinion that it would be a better organization if they lifted the ban.

Private groups, such as the Boy Scouts, have a legal right to the ban on homosexual leaders. The government can choose whether or not to support these groups.

To assert that the government is taking a position by supporting the Boy Scouts in this way would be like saying that organizations (public or private) that support the Girl Scouts in any way are endorsing the fact that they do not ban lesbian leaders.

Posted by: Mark Miller at November 16, 2004 4:37 PM

But that's not what you mean, is it? You mean to force us to erase all nuance and ignore all local consensus by deciding up-or-down on moral questions at the federal level.

Actually, that's not what I mean at all. Let me try to illustrate with the example I was thinking of but didn't really mention: the NEA. We, as a society, have decided that we would like to publicly support the arts. I think that is a good decision; when art is left to philantropy or corporate support, creativity suffers. So we fund the NEA. And people bitch and moan that their tax dollars are going to pornography or crap like that and then we end up with stupid programs like the Shakespeare in highschool program (do we really think the Bard is undertaught???).

We can also look at science funding. Society agrees (and rightly so) that we should invest tax dollars in funding. We let the public in and they try to micromanage grants because they don't want their tax dollars going towards studies that look at transexual Eskimos. By allowing a "nuanced" discussion we completely destroy the idea of peer-reviewed grantmaking.

What does this have to do with the Boy Scouts? The Boy Scouts have declared themselves a religious organization. They have every right to discriminate against gays. I disagree with you that homosexuality is incidental to what they do for boys because that's true, unless you're a gay boy. But we, as society, have every right to decide what kind of public support religion gets. I don't think moral issues should be given a thumbs up or down on the federal level and that's the end of discussion. But I think that we can paint a broad stroke of what we do and do not allow. We give religions a tax break because we feel it allows them to channel their money into things like charities, etc, which are beneficial. We should not allow them direct funding because they discriminate, which may be their right, but unlike offensive art which I can choose whether or not to view it, I don't get that choice with the Boy Scouts.

Lastly, to your indoctrination of homosexual normalcy: there is a fundamental difference between advocating acceptance of someone's identity and active discrimination against someone for that identity. I disagree with many conservative Christian views on the morality of homosexuality, but I would never advocate the silencing of those views. But I do find it interesting that many of the groups that advocate for school prayer also launched campaigns against the indoctrination of their children into accepting homosexuality if SSM bans didn't pass.

Posted by: Michael at November 16, 2004 7:04 PM

Michael,

I'm going to have to get back to you, because I'm having a difficult time sorting through our differences. I don't, for example, think there's a federal mechanism or agency for giving money directly to the Boy Scouts, as with arts and science. Even so, I don't see why it is wrong for the public to place moral restrictions on the amoral process of scientific inquiry, yet it is right for the public to restrict (for example) military involvement in programs that ultimately create effective, moral enlistees.

More fundamentally, I agree with you that "we, as society, have every right to decide what kind of public support religion gets." When's the vote? Last I checked the ACLU's strategy is to go through the courts to challenge public policies that are already in effect.

I also agree with you that "there is a fundamental difference between advocating acceptance of someone's identity and active discrimination against someone for that identity." They're effective opposites; of course there's a fundamental difference. Where we disagree is that you seem to believe that it is somehow not "advocat[ing] the silencing" of Christian moral views to demand that all public support for certain groups be removed because of their morality-based membership/hiring policies, while it is somehow "advocat[ing] the silencing" of homosexuals to offer non-exclusive support to those groups.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 16, 2004 7:25 PM

To bring this out of the stratosphere -
what this issue reminds me of is my friend
Tim. He'd joined the Scouts in his early
teens, and rose through the ranks to
Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow by
the time he was seventeen. He learned
ASL so he could help organize a Cub Scout
troop for deaf boys. He was all set to
move up to Explorer Scout, where he'd
be able to work with the BSA in an adult
capacity.

Then the local council found out he was gay.
Boot! He went through the courts (boo, hiss)
to try and get the BSA to change their
minds and let him back in. No go. They'd
rather lose all the potential they'd seen in
him than compromise their exclusionary principles.
If they were saying, "We're a Christian group, so no Jews allowed. That's not discriminatory; we just have our principles and we won't compromise,"
the same arguments used to defend them now would work equally well. After all, private organizations have the right to determine their own membership, no?

Would I let my son join Scouting? If he really
wanted to, yes. Would I give them my own
time, effort and money, knowing that they
would much rather I didn't? No.

Posted by: Robert at November 17, 2004 2:41 PM

One thing that seems to be getting lost in your stories Joel, Michael, and Robert... if those boys had not been going against the christian norm of abstaining from pre-marital sex, the question of whether or not they were gay should not have even come up. It seems to me that fornication is grounds enough for getting thrown out anyway. Fornication with the same sex makes it even worse considering all the activities lending opportunity for them to be together alone with the same sex. Given all the scandal in the Catholic Church about child abuse and protection of pedophiles, it sure seems to make sense for the Boy Scouts to crack down on it now before it gets out of hand. Somebody has to make the hard choice here about who to protect - a handful of boys having gay sex before they should, or thousands of boys who need that direction. Instead of complaining, maybe you guys would be more constructive in telling your little brothers or little boys to make sure they don't fornicate.

Posted by: smmtheory at November 17, 2004 10:15 PM

...
Should have been - thousand of boys who need the direction that Boys Scouts can give them.
...

Posted by: smmtheory at November 17, 2004 10:17 PM