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Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

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Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.

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A Moral War: A Parent's Reaction To Texas Gov. Rick Perry & The BSA

November 27, 2007

From The Soccer Mom Vote

I was never a girl scout. Or a brownie. As far as I know, my brother was not a boy scout. So I have a clean slate when it comes to my knowledge of the boy scouts. It seems like a fine organization. Politics aside, they seem to me to be making a great gift to boys all over the country.

On October 30, 2007, I attended the Capital Area Boy Scouts of America 2007 Distinguished Citizen Award Dinner in Austin honoring Texas Governor Rick Perry. (I was given a free ticket.) I went to the event, enjoyed a great meal, and had a great time with some friends. I was even looking forward to hearing our governor speak, but on that count I was sorely disappointed, and it is his speech that I want to write about.

The evening began with the pledge of allegiance, which I don’t think I’ve recited since junior high. (It totally comes back to you.) Then those who knew the Scout oath and law recited those. Here they are in case you don’t know them:

Scout Oath:

"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."

And the Scout law:

“A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. "

We heard from some young scouts and saw a presentation about the good that these youngsters are learning and doing in their local chapter. Then Governor Perry spoke, and I include most of his speech here, because I think you should read it:

“They Boy Scouts have had my attention for a long time and they will have my attention until I take my last breath. I believe the boy scouts are the most significant and important organization in America. No other organization has salvaged more lives, built more confidence, or created more leaders. Scouting changed my life forever. And I think it should continue free of interference to do the same thing for young men for as long as America exists. I believe that because I am the product of scouting.”

Wow. OK. I can buy that. The experiences we have in our youth and adolescence really do shape who we are. Perry continued about the small Texas town where he grew up and how it was for him, a great place to live. He went on to praise the values and life lessons that the Boy Scouts uphold:

“Scouting teaches self-reliance and self-sacrifice. It teaches that good things come to those who work hard and follow through. It teaches you can never trade your integrity for something better. It teaches young scouts to respect one another, to respect those in positions of authority, a quality I might add that is sorely missing in today’s world. Of all the values I learned in scouting, I value reverence most of all. Every day I acknowledge God’s power in my life and in this world. It is my relationship with Him that strengthens, gives me the internal power to face every day. And now more than ever, scouts, their supporters, need all the strength that we can get. For more than 40 years we have watched our culture decline while the attacks on the venerable institutions like scouting have mounted, as the culture has increasingly told young people to look out for number one, moral values are relative, if it feels good, do it. Lawsuit-happy do-gooders, they have sought to drive people of faith out of the public square, to sanitize the pledge of allegiance, our currency, our government buildings, even the scouting oath from even the mention of God. Judges have tried to expunge the word Christmas from the public dialog, activists have tried to force the scouts to conform to a social agenda that fits their narrow view, all of it, of course, in the name of tolerance. I happen to believe some of the most intolerant acts were often performed in the name of tolerance.”

What? Whoa. He lost me at Lawsuit-happy do-gooders. He continued, as follows:

“I’m proud to say that earlier this year I signed legislation that protects the right of school children to express their faith in our public schools without worrying about a trip to the principal’s office. See, when the supreme court decision in the Dale case -- when the United States supreme court affirmed the Dale case, the rights of scouts to set their membership standards as it relates to scout masters, those same organizations started threatening public schools and other publicly financed organizations for letting scouts use their resources, their buildings. For instance, in San Diego, facilities that had hosted scouting activities for as long as people can remember are now off limits. The department of defense gets attacked for hosting scouting events on DOD property that they have allowed to be used for 60 plus years and you see, you need to know that at its core, this is really not about the Boy Scouts. The scouts are merely a listening post on the perimeter. They’re sounding the early alarm of other impending attacks on our values and I don’t believe the attacks are going to let up.”

He is referring to a couple of things here. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court held that as a private group, the Boy Scouts of America have a right to forbid atheists and gays from serving in it. Following that ruling, some lawsuits followed in California (in San Diego and Berkeley). As a result, some locations that had previously allowed the Boy Scouts to use their facilities (rent-free in one case) stopped allowing them to do so based on the fact that they deemed those events to be discriminatory (closed to gays and atheists).

In other words, San Diego said to the Boy Scouts, ours is a public facility. You may use our public facility if your event is open to all members of the community. You may use our facility only if you are using it in a way that does not discriminate against any of the citizens of our city. That seems fair to me. Perry went on:

“So if you believe there is such a thing as right and wrong, if you believe that there are acceptable standards of behavior, if you believe that ethics cannot be made up on the spot, if you believe that judges need to make decisions based on the law rather than on popular opinion at the time, and if you believe that this very nation came into existence because of what George Washington called divine providence, then you have a stake in this war as well. At the beginning of this coming February, I’m going to plant my own flag in this war when a book that I have written on scouting is published. It’s my attempt to clearly state the importance of scouting values and to more clearly draw the battle lines in this very vital conflict. With it, I hope to let the world know that this conflict isn’t just an intellectual exercise. It is a battle for the very future of our country.”

Suddenly, he’s talking about war. I really have a problem with this rhetoric. Perry is attempting to create a divide between what seems to be his idea of good people who “believe there is such a thing as right and wrong” and… who else? Those of us who don’t support discriminating against gays or atheists? This language fosters an Us and Them mentality that is to me, absurd.

I am not a Christian. But I certainly can see the value of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s a fine organization responsible for helping young boys who might not have any other access to good role models. But I agree whole-heartedly with the decisions of California lawmakers who declared their buildings closed to anyone who would discriminate against their citizens. Does that put me in a category of “lawsuit-happy do-gooders” lacking in ethics who support judges who make decisions based on popular opinion as opposed to the law? According to Perry, it does. Perry concluded with the following:

“So today, my fear is not that somehow we’re going to lose our freedom to a superior power, but that the decay of our society will lead us to trade our freedom for shortsighted self-indulgence. For more than a generation, our culture has emphasized a message of self-indulgence and it’s at the expense of social obligation. We have reaped the consequences in the form of teen pregnancy, divorced and broken families, a cycle of incarceration that all too often joins young men with their fathers behind bars. The foundation of our government or I should say the foundation of our society - it’s not government or for that matter individual freedom, it’s the family. And the demise of the family is the death mill of any great society. Past generations didn’t fight to give our children the freedom to gun down other children. They didn’t die on the battle field to give parents the freedom to starve their babies because they wanted to spend their last dime on getting high. Our young men and women didn’t give their lives in battle so that video games and television and the internet could raise our kids rather than two loving parents. We must never mistake freedom for license. One is right and the other leads to oppression.”

Perry never had my vote, and he’ll never have it now (as if there was any question). I was disgusted by his black and white interpretation of right and wrong, his eagerness to divide a community along religious lines, and his blatant insinuation that the only valid definition of family is a traditional one that includes two heterosexual parents. Perry claims, along with most of the religious right, that we are fighting a Moral War. Maybe we are. But it seems to me that Perry and others like him are doing their very best to get the battle going.




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