Homosexual Activists Are after the Boy Scouts Again

By Tooley, Mark | Insight on the News, May 17, 1999 | Go to article overview

Homosexual Activists Are after the Boy Scouts Again


Tooley, Mark, Insight on the News


Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn the California Supreme Court's defense of the Boy Scout ban on homosexual scout leaders. Homosexual-rights activists vowed to try again.

This year, the New Jersey Supreme Court is deliberating over another serious challenge to scouting. And this time some of America's largest churches are siding with the Boy Scouts, who count 4.5 million American boys as members. The case should concern all Americans who value First Amendment protections of free speech, religious liberty and freedom of association. Should homosexual activists be allowed judicially to browbeat the Boy Scouts, and churches that sponsor them, into accepting their ideology? "Scout leaders are supposed to be models for children in the program to copy," explained New York attorney George Davidson, who represented the Boy Scouts before the New Jersey Supreme Court earlier this year. He defended the Boy Scouts' dismissal of scout leader James Dale, whose defense of homosexual relationships in a Newark Star-Ledger article placed him at odds with Boy Scout policy. An appellate court in New Jersey ruled in 1998 that the Boy Scouts must accept homosexual scout leaders, but the Boy Scouts appealed to the state's highest court.

This challenge to the Boy Scouts has aroused the attention of the nation's largest sponsors of Boy Scout troops. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting, the United Methodist Church's men's organization, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod all have signed an amicus brief on behalf of the Boy Scouts. Mormon churches are the largest sponsor of Boy Scout units, while United Methodist churches are second only to public schools as a sponsor of individual scouts. Roman Catholic Churches sponsor more than 9,600 Boy Scout units and 355,000 Boy Scouts. The Catholic Church is the largest religious sponsor of scouting in New Jersey.

Currently 65 percent of all scout units in the United States are sponsored by churches, two-thirds of them by the churches listed above. United Methodist leaders often lean to the left on social issues, while more conservative Catholic, Mormon and Missouri Synod Lutheran leaders do not routinely adopt high-profile positions on public issues regarding homosexuality. But they seem to have been provoked in this case by their historically close association with the Boy Scouts and by the constitutional implications if "gay-rights" laws are applied to private and religiously affiliated organizations. These churches, along with most of America's religious denominations, all have official policies that preclude the ordination of practicing homosexuals into their clergy ranks.

California's Supreme Court recognized that the Boy Scouts are a private association not bound by homosexual-rights legislation in that state. But the New Jersey appellate court ruled that Boy Scouts were a public accommodation similar to a hotel or a restaurant and that Dale's removal as a scout leader violated his civil rights. Dale, who now is 28, since has become an employee of a magazine for people who are HIV positive.

But he says he still would like the option of serving as a scout leader. Dale's lawyer and other defenders say his 11-year scouting career was exemplary. Scout leaders raised no objection to Dale until, as a college student, he was quoted in the Star-Ledger as a leader in the Lesbian/Gay Alliance at Rutgers University. …

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