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Using parliamentary procedures to their advantage, members of the
Congressional Scouting Caucus last night essentially defeated a bill
aimed at punishing the
Boy Scouts of America for the organization’s ban on homosexual leaders.
The caucus, made up of about 80 Republicans and Democrats and led by
Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, R-Calif., was able to bring a bill to the House floor for a vote even though it had never had a hearing in committee. Though the bill was defeated by voice vote, a roll-call vote will be taken today anyway.
H.R. 4892, The Scouting for All Act, sponsored by
Rep. Lynn C. Woolsey, D-Calif., would revoke the congressional charter the Boy Scouts of America has held since 1916. The charter was issued to BSA for its efforts to promote “patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues” for young boys, according to language in the document itself.
Woolsey objected to the unusual move to bring the bill up for a vote prior to committee hearings. She said she wanted the bill to have a hearing first.
Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., said he was forced to bring the bill out for a vote because of recent actions by President Bill Clinton.
WorldNetDaily recently reported
that Clinton signed an executive order that was used to try to evict the
Boy Scouts from federal lands and facilities. Attorney General Janet Reno quickly responded and denied that any attempt was being made to stop the 90-year-old scouting organization from using the lands.
“Under this circumstance, when the administration has suggested that the Boy Scouts of America should not use federal lands under current executive orders, they need a statement that their charter is in good standing,” said Hutchinson.
Congress, he said, must send a message that “we stand with the Boy Scouts of America. That we believe their charter should not be revoked. And that would put an end to the matter — I would hope,” said the Arkansas Republican.
A spokesman for Rohrabacher said the Congressional Scouting Caucus — formed to defend the Boy Scouts of America — has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans as members.
Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, told WorldNetDaily that each member of the caucus “cares very deeply about this.” He said most members are Eagle Scouts.
The attacks by homosexual activists against the Boy Scouts represent a cultural war, said Cannon.
“There is a militant push to make homosexuality acceptable to society,” he stated, adding that there was a need for a vote on the controversial bill to enable voters to know where their representatives stand on the issue.
During debate of the bill to strip the scouting organization of its honorary charter, Cannon said the Boy Scouts have the fundamental right of free speech and the right to assemble.
“The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the first amendment freedom of the Boy Scouts to exclude scoutmasters who do not support the values of the Boy Scouts of America. We should adhere to the opinion of the United States Supreme Court,” said Hutchinson.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the BSA on June 28 and agreed that the group, as a private organization, has the right to establish who can and who cannot be an adult leader.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., who led the fight to pass the bill, complained and said it had been brought to the floor for a vote “as a political stunt.”
Conyers quoted from the Cubmaster handbook in an effort to show that Scouts are taught to have courage and oppose anything they find to be wrong. He said children are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
“They will not stand up to gay bashing,” he said.
Woolsey said, “We’re not saying the Boy Scouts are bad; we’re saying that intolerance is bad.” She said that because the organization will not accept homosexuals as leaders for young boys, those boys are being taught to be intolerant.
“Put simply, a charter is an honorary title Congress awards to organizations that serve a charitable, patriotic and educational purpose. But to me, there’s nothing charitable or patriotic about intolerance and it’s not a value we want our children to learn,” she said.
“Revoking the charter does not cut off federal funding for the Boy Scouts and does not change their tax status. What revoking the charter does is send a clear message that Congress does not support intolerance,” said Woolsey when she first introduced the bill in July, and repeated again during the debate.
The name of the bill comes from an organization formed by homosexual activists, called
Scouting for All. WorldNetDaily recently reported that
Scouting for All has complained
about a rival website created by defenders of the Boy Scouts.
Cannon and Rohbacher have also teamed up to form Save Our Scouts and
a website to gather signatures on a petition supporting the BSA
policy towards homosexuals, and to provide a means for people to give
donations to the Scouts.
“Instead of attacking the Boy Scouts, we should be celebrating that the Supreme Court has upheld the First Amendment,” said Rohbacher in a speech on the House floor.
He said the Boy Scouts have maintained a moral standard rejected by the liberal left. He also referred to an incident at the Democratic National Convention when six boys in scout uniforms were booed as “despicable.”
He went on to term the many recent attacks on the Boy Scouts as malicious, saying groups are trying to put a stop to donations to the BSA in an effort to “force them into submission.”
“It is this bill, not the Boy Scouts, that promotes intolerance,” said
Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind. “All the Boy Scouts ask is that others tolerate its beliefs.”
Buyer added that the Boy Scouts are “a model on how to be inclusive,” and he concluded that “we should commend, not punish.”
Cannon said Save Our Scouts was formed to provide a way for people to donate, saying he hopes people will use the site to send donations to the Boy Scouts to make up for any funds lost because of pressure from homosexual activists.
WorldNetDaily recently reported that some
media claims that companies
have pulled their funding from the Boy Scouts have proven to be
false. Woolsey used a poster during her speech on the House floor displaying headlines from news articles that have falsely reported the status of donations from companies and the United Way.
Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., also mentioned the jeering incident at the recent Democratic National Convention. That event seemed to be the start of recent protests against the BSA.
“They ought to be ashamed,” said Barr of the Democrats. “Morally straight, that’s what they find so reprehensible. Have they no shame?” asked Barr, referring to the now-controversial phrase in the Boy Scout Oath.
Woolsey compared the fight with the Boy Scouts to the civil rights movement. She compared the BSA ban against homosexuals with discrimination against blacks.
“It is wrong for the BSA to discriminate against gays today,” she said.
Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., was critical of Woolsey and her supporters.
“Now it seems some in Congress want to legislate what these core values should be,” he said, adding that the Boy Scouts are “as American as apple pie and baseball” and should be defended.
“Indeed the Boy Scouts do good work. My point is that all boys should be involved in scouting, not just some boys,” said Woolsey.
The Traditional Values Coalition responded to the House vote on Woolsey’s bill by warning that the attack on the Boy Scouts is only the first step by homosexual activists.
“It will not be long before the Clinton-Gore administration and the radical homosexuals come for Bible-believing churches which teach and preach against homosexuality,” warned Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the group which represents 43,000 churches.
A voice vote was taken and it was declared that H.R. 4892 was defeated. A motion was then made for a roll call vote, and that vote was then postponed until today.
Cannon told WorldNetDaily that the vote would enable Americans to know where their representative stands on the issue.