scouts-l Mail Archive for July of 2000: SE Column on Policy
Bill Nelson (bnelson45@HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Jul 08 2000 - 10:49:59 CDT
Counterpoint : Scouting, in essence, helps families
teach their values to their children
By Terry L. Schwark
JONATHAN anxiously waited for this past Wednesday -- his seventh
birthday. He was disappointed when his mother told him his father had to
work late. As he sat in the kitchen, a radio news story mentioned the
"Mom, was that the reason dad had to work late?" Jonathan asked. "Yes,"
said the mother, who's also the wife of the director of public relations
for the Boy Scout council.
"What's that all about?" asked Jonathan.
How do you explain a Supreme Court decision to a 7-year-old? How do
you explain the difference between a private organization and a public
accommodation? She gathered her thoughts and said, "Today, the court
said the Boy Scouts can choose their own leaders."
"Gee, mom, that's great!" Jonathan said. "Mom, will you be my Scout
This precious kitchen-table conversation captures the essence of
Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling: The Boy Scouts of America helps
families teach their values to their children. Those values are found in
the Scout Oath and Law.
The 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
The Scout Law: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
These principles provide a positive moral code for living. They instill
compassion, tolerance, responsibility and other positive character
James Dale learned this moral code and became an Eagle Scout in New
Jersey. As an adult Scout leader, his membership was revoked when his
homosexual orientation became public. Dale filed suit and the New Jersey
Supreme Court issued a summary judgment, asserting that the Boy Scouts
are a "public accommodation," not a private organization. The U.S.
Supreme Court ruled that we have the right to set our own membership
and leadership standards based on constitutional rights to freedom of
association and freedom of speech.
A June 29 editorial stated that "the Scouts' embrace of homophobia . . .
endangers the Scouts' reputation for inclusiveness." Our council
consists of a diverse group of families, organizations, faiths and
businesses with a wide variety of views. Scouts come from all walks of
life. We value this diversity.
The morality of homosexual conduct is controversial. This case was
difficult for the Boy Scouts because there are many differing opinions
on this issue. We respect the plea of many gay and lesbian Americans not
to have the majority's morality imposed on them. Likewise, we ask that a
contrary morality not be forced on organizations like the Boy Scouts.
The Boy Scouts believe that controversial questions of personal
morality, often involving religious conviction, are best tested and
resolved within the private marketplace of ideas, not as
government-imposed practices. The Boy Scouts of America's growth and
prosperity during the last 90 years is proof of this.
While remaining true to our principles, Scouting evolved to meet the
changing needs of our communities. Scouting will continue to change.
Fifteen years ago, we debated whether or not women should be
In 1986, women were allowed to serve in any leadership position in the
Boy Scouts of America.
Scouting does change. However, Scouting has never been -- and should
not be -- on the leading edge of social change. There's a simple reason
for this: Millions of families trust us to guide their children.
Terry L. Schwarck is Scout Executive of the Greater St. Louis Area