Unfortunately this is currently only available to National Review subscribers. Hopefully it'll be open to the public soon and available elsewhere. Major thanks to garylee8604 for sharing the article with me! And note below the OA cited in the article is the National Honor Society I was just inducted into.. and yet this is the organization that the ACLU and their ilk have in their cross hairs.. and won't rest until they destroy. Also see here for a post about a great book chronicling this battle.. and don't be mistaken - it is a battle of epic proportion..
Across the country, the Boy Scouts are under attack
The Boy Scouts of America have been dragged onto the front lines of the culture wars. “It started 20 years ago with lawsuits complaining girls and atheists were being excluded,” says Robert Bork Jr., spokesman for the BSA in Washington and son of the former Supreme Court nominee. “Then there were the homosexual cases, culminating in the Supreme Court’s Dale decision in 2000, which ruled that as a private organization, the Scouts were entitled to choose their own members. The American Civil Liberties Union lost, but has been trying ever since to have the Scouts expelled from the public square.”
The Scouts, while indeed a private organization, have significant ties to public institutions. They get special treatment in the use of national and state parks and military facilities for their campouts and jamborees. They also recruit in public schools.
These favors hardly go unreciprocated. Probably no other organization in America volunteers as much time — 7 million hours since 2004 alone — improving public property and assisting public programs. This summer the Order of the Arrow (a kind of Scout alumni association) organized a “Five Sites, Five Weeks, Five Thousand Arrowmen” project, in which 5,000 volunteers spent five weeks implementing conservation and improving public facilities in national forests from Virginia to Wyoming. “Good Turn for America,” another Scouting effort, cleans up hundreds of city parks and schoolyards and helps the Department of Health and Human Services administer its campaigns against teenage tobacco use and childhood obesity. As part of the leadership training required to become an Eagle Scout, a boy organizes his troop in performing a community service. Scores of municipal and state parks and National Historic Sites have been improved by Eagle projects. The Phoenix-area council has spent more than a thousand hours on fire-prevention and conservation projects in the Grand Canyon and nearby national forests.
No one has yet tried to bar the Scouts from these efforts. Instead, the ACLU and gay-rights groups have concentrated their fire on urban Scout councils on the East and West Coasts. For example, in 2000 (shortly after a Scout color guard was booed at the Democratic National Convention), the Philadelphia city council pounced. In 1928 the city had leased a half-acre property to the group for $1 a year, on which the Boy Scouts had constructed a 7,500-square-foot Beaux Arts headquarters at their own expense. The city council first tried to evict the Scouts, and has now switched to demanding $200,000 a year in rent. After winning in the state courts, city solicitor Shelley Smith issued an eviction notice. The Scouts have countersued in federal court.
Similarly, through leases with the city, Boy Scouts in the San Diego area have run Camp Balboa and a half acre on Fiesta Island for decades, and have spent millions of their own dollars developing the properties. Both parks are open to the public. The ACLU filed suit on behalf of a lesbian couple and an agnostic couple, arguing that the Scouts were a religious organization and therefore the leases violated the establishment clause. The city council fought at first, but in early 2004, after the court decisions had started going the other way, it announced it would “take no position” in the legal proceedings regarding its own leases. The case drags on, and unlike the Boy Scouts, the ACLU does not volunteer its time: In return for leaving the city out of the matter (after, of course, dragging the city into the matter), it got $790,000 for legal fees and $160,000 for court costs.
There’s more to the urban Boy Scouts than buildings and parks. In the 1990s, the BSA created “Learning for Life,” an after-school program in character education performed on contract with public school districts. Explorer Scouts, a co-ed adventure program aimed at older teens and often housed in police buildings, was also expanded. Albert Shanker, longtime president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, called scouting “the best educational institution in America.”
One might hope that the ACLU, even while trying to push the Scouts off of real estate they’ve heavily invested in, would leave these programs alone. But after Dale, the ACLU succeeded in abolishing the Chicago Police Department’s Explorer program. Lambda, the legal arm of the gay-rights movement, is trying to do the same in Los Angeles. Other programs are under attack all over the country.
When these initiatives lose public support, it’s hard for them to come up with money elsewhere. “In suburban areas, you have a lot of well-to-do parents who can support the troop. They can pay for the uniforms, buy the camping equipment, and raise the money for the bus tours to the Grand Tetons,” says George Davidson, the New York lawyer who argued Dale before the Supreme Court. “It’s the urban programs that are always starving for money. They’re the ones being wounded by this.”
And even private support is under attack. Gay-rights advocates in dozens of cities have persuaded United Way to stop supporting the Scouts. When loss of corporate funding decimated the Greater New York Council, one of the first things to go was the program to send inner-city non-Scouts to summer camp. The BSA’s South Florida Council lost $700,000 annually, most of which had gone to its ScoutReach program targeting “at-risk youth.”
It’s hard to overestimate the opportunities lost. “I was a gang member myself when I was a kid,” says J. D. Stark, a 63-year-old retired New York City Transit worker and veteran Boy Scout leader. “We were reading some of those early Greek and Roman historians looking for battle strategies. I hate to think of what would have happened to me if I had kept that up. But one day I met an adult who talked me into joining the Scouts. It saved my life.”
In a 2000 City Journal article, Heather Mac Donald described spending several months attending Scout meetings around New York City. All over Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, small troops practiced rigorous uniform inspections and learned to saw logs in church basements. While the skills seemed anachronistic, the boys treasured the discipline. Scouting provides male example and leadership in a world where they are sorely lacking. “The scoutmaster may be the only stable adult in a child’s life. Schools call him about truant boys; single mothers or grandmothers invoke his wrath to try to get a boy to behave,” wrote Mac Donald.
The Scouts’ urban programs also provide a place where classes and races mix un-self-consciously. I was a Scout leader in Brooklyn for 15 years, starting in Park Slope, the kind of upscale-Left milieu where homosexuality draws much less attention than a Scout uniform. (“You’re not going to make them do anything patriotic, are you?” one mother asked.) After a few years we were expelled from our sponsoring church, where a new minister wanted to bring lesbians into his parish, so we moved to a Spanish-speaking Catholic church in a nearby neighborhood.
I teamed with a scoutmaster who had once been a Young Lord (the Puerto Rican equivalent of the Black Panthers), and we put together a troop that was half Park Slope privilege and half public housing. It meshed beautifully. We won the Brooklyn Klondike Derby (a sled race) our first year, and everyone’s horizons expanded. When a partially paralyzed 15-year-old from the projects joined the troop, the boys spent half their time on camping trips helping him up and down the mountains.
Giving in to the gay-rights lobby is no solution for the Scouts. For every activist who sees the BSA involvement as a stain on the municipal coat of arms, there are a hundred parents who don’t like the idea of sending their son on an overnight camping trip with an avowed homosexual. Those on the radical sexual Left encourage these fears: The North American Man-Boy Love Association has pictured Boy Scouts in its literature and advised members to use Scout troops as recruiting grounds. In a 1999 performance in Royal Albert Hall, Elton John had six men in Cub Scout uniforms perform a striptease while he sang “It’s a Sin.”
This is of course not to say that most, or even many, homosexuals would present a risk to youths. But the point remains that the BSA is a private organization whose essence is to promote a traditional code of moral and aesthetic value to young men. Its members strive to “do a good turn daily,” and very often succeed. Is American society willing to return the favor?
Mr. Tucker, who usually writes on energy and the environment, is former assistant scoutmaster of Troop 815, Brooklyn, N.Y.