Op-ed: “The War on the Boy Scouts”

Denver Post Columnist Al Knight writes today:

The war on the Boy Scouts

Some topics are best left both out of sight and out of mind. The American Civil Liberties Union’s war on the Boy Scouts is not one of them.

The ACLU, in a rational world, might well have been expected to champion the First Amendment rights of an organization like the Boy Scouts. After all, the First Amendment to the Constitution (so dear to the ACLU) protects both speech and the right to associate.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 upheld the right of the Boy Scouts to select members and leaders without regard to state laws that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.

That ruling hasn’t stopped the ACLU. It has simply shifted tactics away from the courts and focused its energies on local and often mean-spirited campaigns to deny the Scouts places to meet and the ability to raise funds.

Sadly, the campaign appears to be working. Earlier this year, the Philadelphia City Council caved to pressure from the ACLU and gay and lesbian groups to end a 75-year-old, $1-a-year lease on the Boy Scouts headquarters. The lease was originally granted to run “in perpetuity.”

But now, the Scouts will have to pay almost $200,000 a year in rent. Not only that, but the city’s Cradle of Liberty Boy Scout Council, after years of resistance, gave in to pressure and essentially agreed to the demands of gay and lesbian groups. And more bad news: The left-leaning Pew Charitable Trusts and the United Way in Philadelphia have stopped funding the Boy Scouts.

The youth of Philadelphia need the Boy Scouts as much as ever, but the City Council is too cowardly to stand up to the unreasonable and vindictive demands of special interest groups.

These campaigns against the Scouts can no longer be disguised as efforts to end discrimination. They have only one purpose: to punish an organization that has performed countless good turns for a century.

At this point, it is unclear what can be done to convince the American public that actions like those taken by the Philadelphia City Council pose a risk to the nation and to the common good. Today, the Boy Scouts may be the target, but tomorrow the same shabby tactics could be aimed at the Rotary Club or any other private civic group.

Those who care about traditional notions of diversity and tolerance might consider joining the battle by showing support for the American Civil Rights Union. The ACRU, which was founded in 1998 as a response to the ACLU, is a champion of the First Amendment and conservative causes, including support for the enforcement of existing immigration laws, opposition to the Fairness Doctrine and support for the principle of executive privilege. Contact them at theacru.org.

Al Knight of Fairplay (alknight@mindspring.com) is a former member of The Post’s editorial-page staff. His column appears twice a month.

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