The Boys Scouts are getting mixed reviews these days. On one hand, they spent the last 11 years standing up to that perennial leftwing bully, the ACLU and won. For this, many Americans are proud of them. Unfortunately, the ink was hardly dry on the court’s ACLU decision when news outlets pulled the rug from under Boy Scout supporters. The venerable organization whose pledge includes the words, “I will do my duty to God and country…” is considering dropping its long-held ban on homosexuality. If this happens, the Boy Scouts might as well change their pledge to read, “I will do my duty to political correctness and liberal orthodoxy.”
Before tackling the issue of homosexuality and the Boy Scouts, a few words about their long, hard-won fight with the ACLU. The ACLU has no better friend in high places than the Ninth Circuit Court—the most liberal, wacky, and overturned circuit court in America. The ACLU and other leftwing advocacy groups have long relied on the Ninth Circuit Court for friendly decisions. This is the court that proposed to do away with our National Anthem or, barring that, at least strike the phrase “under God” from it. Consequently, it came as a shock to liberals and conservatives alike when the Ninth Circuit Court—perhaps fearing another embarrassing reversal by the Supreme Court—sided with the Boy Scouts in a lawsuit brought by the ACLU.
Here is the background. In 2001 the ACLU filed suit on behalf of a lesbian couple and an agnostic couple who claimed the Boy Scouts were not eligible to lease space on public land in San Diego because the Scouts are a “religious organization.” The Boy Scouts have long maintained a camp and their local headquarters in San Diego’s Balboa Park. The suit named both the Boy Scouts and the City of San Diego as defendants. In 2003, ignoring the First Amendment as well as legal precedent, federal district Judge Napolean A. Jones, Jr. ruled in favor of the ACLU.
The weak-kneed San Diego City Council caved in 2004, backing out of the lawsuit and agreeing to pay the ACLU and its clients $1,000,000 in legal fees. But not so the Boy Scouts. They were made of sterner stuff. The Boy Scouts continued to fight the case, appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court. Surprising everyone accustomed to their left-leaning propensities, the Ninth Circuit Court reversed the district Judge’s decision and in December 2012 ruled in favor of the Boy Scouts. The district court judge had originally concluded—erroneously—that the lesbian and agnostic couples had been denied use of the Boy Scout’s camp in Balboa Park. But when the plaintiffs admitted they had never even attempted to use the Boy Scout’s facility and because of their revulsion for the Boy Scouts would not want to use it, the ACLU’s case fell apart. Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld of the Ninth Circuit Court wrote in his opinion: “Revulsion for a group so intense that one cannot bear to be on property they manage cannot, in a tolerant society, be deemed sufficiently concrete as to confer standing to sue.”
The issue at the heart of the ACLU’s failed case is more substantial and potentially more destructive than the Boy Scouts’ eligibility to enter into public leases. Think of what would happen if people were allowed to sue every time they found themselves put off by others who hold differing opinions or worldviews. As a conservative, my reaction to much of the liberal agenda in America is revulsion but I am not allowed to sue every time I am put off by a liberal opinion, policy, or action. And although I would often like to sue over liberal stupidity, I do understand, appreciate, and support the First Amendment. There is a lesson for conservatives in the Boy Scouts’ willingness to stand up to the ACLU. It is the same lesson that many little boys learn in elementary school. There is only one way to handle a bully: stand up to him and fight back.
Now, a few words about the decision of the Boy Scouts to admit homosexuals, a decision that has been temporarily postponed because the conservative backlash against the Scouts has been at least as intense as the pressure from homosexual groups to drop the long-standing ban. Just when the ACLU decision made conservatives across America proud of the Boy Scouts, they showed signs of going soft on their principles. And make no mistake about it, if big wigs in the Boy Scout hierarchy were not seriously considering elimination of the homosexual ban, they would not have floated a trial balloon on the subject.
In all likelihood, Boy Scout executives have already made a provisional decision to cast aside their principles and give in to the pressure of political correctness. The way they are likely to do this is by passing the buck and allowing decisions about admitting homosexuals to be made at the local level, a cowardly cop out if there ever was one. Boy Scout executive are simply weighing potential actions against potential consequences and trying to find a pragmatic way to satisfy both sides of the argument. Unfortunately for Boy Scout executives, anyone on either side of the argument could tell them that pragmatic appeasement will not work. This is one of those situations where you are either all in or all out.