Over the past 50 years, the left in America has successfully transformed American society. Among the long list of liberal victories is the growth of the welfare state, sexual liberation, removing God from the public square, abortion, affirmative action, redistribution of wealth, more government control of business, radical environmentalism and the transformation of the family.
One must tip their hat at the breadth and scale of change that the left has accomplished, but such radical disruption of society over a relatively short time has had consequences. One that has received relatively little attention is what Christina Hoff Sommers called the “War on Boys.” In her book she describes how public schools have made little boys try to compete in a system designed for little girls and how they are failing. Drop-out rates for boys have increased, and more girls now go to college than boys. The impact of this and the increasing absence of fathers and male role models in the lives of boys from lower- and middle-income families have led to increased joblessness, violence and incarceration, inability to climb the economic ladder and a perpetuation of the cycle of fatherless families.
So when I saw that the Boy Scouts of America executive board is convening on Wednesday to discuss abandoning the organization’s founding moral principles that nurture boys into men, I was saddened, but not surprised. It makes sense that men at the top of the food chain whose boys are insulated, although not immune, from the harmful effects of societal change are behind this effort. Board members James Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young, and Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, are advocating for gay scoutmasters and scouts. They are joined by two big funders, UPS and Merck, that have signaled change or money will disappear.
This is not a new fight. Liberal activist lawyers went to court to force the Boy Scouts to change, but the Supreme Court in 2000 upheld the Boy Scouts’ right to set its own policies. In that case, the Court ruled that the freedom of association, a constitutional right, permits a private organization to exclude someone from membership when “the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.”
That did not deter lawyers, anti-scouting public officials and liberal Christian denominations from keeping the Boy Scouts in their cross-hairs. All of these attacks have been cheered by a mainstream media that see an opportunity to advance a liberal cause while vilifying a theistic-based organization standing by its outdated principles of developing boys into men.
Over the years I have been a champion of the unique role that civil society, through voluntary associations, plays in shaping individual character and the common good. What makes these organizations so effective, I believe, is precisely their ability to appeal to something “other,” to some higher authority to which we are accountable. I believe what makes the Scouts so successful, therefore, is loyalty to its first principles, its history and its understanding of what it means to live in duty to God.
Wednesday’s vote is a challenge to the Scouts’ very nature and is another example of the left attempting to remove God from all areas of public life. There are more than 2.3 million Scouts and 1 million volunteer Scout leaders active today, each a member of a local troop and regional scouting organization. The proposed change sounds like a thoughtful compromise. A BSA official stated that the Scouts “would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents.” In other words, it will allow local troops to decide for themselves, and those local troops that stick to the traditional core principles could continue without fear.
That simply won’t happen. First, this policy change will remove the legal protection given to them by the most recent Supreme Court case that permitted the BSA to include or exclude members based upon commonly held “viewpoints.” If those principles are now optional, every troop that doesn’t want a homosexual or atheist scoutmaster will be sued. That assumes those troops run by faith-based individuals and church hosts will stay with the Boy Scouts. Many will simply leave and pursue alternative ways to continue to invest in the development of their young men’s character, leaving the Scouts hollowed out at its core.
I implore Mr. Turley and Mr. Stephenson and the executives at Merck and UPS to read the Boy Scout Law. It is filled with words that have long left the popular lexicon when applied to young men, but I suspect traits you would value in your employees: trustworthy, loyal, courteous, thrifty, obedient, clean and reverent. Yes, the Boy Scouts are not of the popular culture. They haven’t transformed themselves to keep up with what is cool or trending, so in the mind of the intolerant liberal mind they must be forced to conform.
We have witnessed how challenging it is in the elite circles of our society to keep true to what is good and right. The pressures are enormous, but here too this old institution instructs us about another word, “bravery,” for those circumstances: “A Scout can face danger although he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him.”
Scouting prepares boys and teenagers to be virtuous men in a world that desperately needs men who are brave enough to stand up for those principles, to live by the moral code of the Scout Oath and Law and hold themselves to that standard – whether at the schoolyard or in the boardroom. Scouting may not survive this transformation of American society, but for the sake of the average boy in America, I hope the board of the Scouts doesn’t have its fingerprints on the murder weapon.