Originally created 09/30/00

Who will be left to defend the Boy Scouts?



Den 4. Wolf, Bear, and Lion. Pack 70. Webelo. Troop 95. Order of the Arrow, Eagle, God and Country.

FREQUENTLY IN this space I quote from The Good Book. Today I quote from another good book, at one time outsold by only the Bible - The Boy Scout Handbook: "On my honor I will do my best: to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."

Those 40 words have been the Oath and the guiding principle of the Boy Scouts of America for more than 90 years. Now from many sources comes an attack, which if successful, will destroy scouting's foundations.

A Boy Scout pledges his honor, his reputation, his integrity, giving his word as his guarantee of performance.

"On my honor I will do my best to keep myself morally straight," the scout pledges. Elaborating on the words "morally straight," which is scouting's historical opposition to homosexual behavior, The Scout Handbook tells a scout to "respect and defend the rights of all people."

FORGOTTEN IN the rush to strip the Boy Scouts of their historic position is one simple fact: Respect does not automatically mean approval, and defense does not automatically mean ratification. Regardless, from sources high and low, respect of the Boy Scouts' moral code is not voiced, and defense of its rights to keep its organization intact is not raised.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., sponsored legislation which would have revoked the scouts' federal charter. The measure Woolsey introduced, co-sponsored by 10 other Democrats, was defeated, receiving only 11 "yes" votes. Fifty-one Democrats and one Republican voted "Present" rather than support the scouts.

The Fort Lauderdale City Commission voted against giving the Boy Scouts $4,000 to help disabled and disadvantaged children. Broward County voted to withdraw more than $92,000 from the scouts, and the Miami-Dade school district postponed a scouting recruitment drive.

The New York Times editorialized, "In today's world, children cannot learn about honor from an organization that views homosexuality as a moral defect."

THIS SUMMER, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned a New Jersey court and upheld the right of the Boy Scouts of America to associate with people of its own choosing - and by extension, to not associate with other people if it so chooses. Now that the rule of law has been restored, opponents of the Boy Scouts continue searching for other ways to fundamentally change scouting.

Scott Cozza founded "Scouting for All," an organization whose stated mission is "to get the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its policy of discrimination against gay youth and adults." Boy Scouts are continually challenged to respect the rights of others, to defend the rights of others, and all the while Cozza's organization - with his teen-age son, Steven as its lightning rod and poster boy - pushes for the Boy Scouts to discard its historic oath, dismantle its principles, and admit practicing homosexuals (they also want atheists admitted to an organization whose members pledge their best duty to God).

In the Sept. 9 issue of SF Weekly, Scott Cozza said, "I never saw myself using Steven for my own agenda. Not consciously, anyway." In the same issue of SF Weekly, Steven Cozza says (three years after his initial exposure by SFA, "Scouting is only a speck in my life now." In his article, "Steven comes of age: A Boy Scout No More," Joel P. Engardio writes, "But Steven remains the mouthpiece of his cause. His words and image have helped do what the courts can't: pressure the scouts to lift the ban by turning public opinion - and dollars - against the organization."

THE BOY SCOUTS of America would say, "Morally straight means that our members do not practice homosexuality. We have believed that for almost 100 years. The highest court in our nation has affirmed our right to disassociate ourselves and associate ourselves as we see fit. This is our right under the Constitution of the United States."

Those who oppose the Boy Scouts demand their perceived rights by attempting to force the scouts to abandon their legal rights. When this epidemic runs its course, men will be staying at women's shelters, teen-agers will be members of AARP, Buddhists will be members of the Jewish War Veterans, and the United Negro College Fund will give scholarships to Caucasians. "Well, those are not moral issues," you say. And the critics of the Boy Scouts say the same thing about homosexuality. You remember the words of Pastor Martin Niemoeller: "... Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

The author is a local free-lance writer.E-mail address: david@mirkids.com