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Austin Cline

Joe Sabia: More Church, Less State, Part 3

By November 28, 2003

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Simply because the Boy Scouts had the temerity to stand up for Judeo-Christian principles in their membership criteria, they are now the targets of vile anti-religious assaults by radical homosexual activists. The Boy Scouts of America was founded as a proud pro-American organization with the goal of transforming young boys into God-fearing, loyal countrymen, but the left hated the group's premise from day one. Their goal today is not just to kill the Scouts off. Taking a cue from 1984, they want to forcibly convert the Scouts into a sick version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy before inflicting the fatal blow. And make no mistake about it -- Christianity is the ultimate target.

This is the third installment of a four part analysis and critique of Joe Sabia's article "More Church, Less State."

Ah, the Boy Scouts. Which leftists hated the Boy Scouts of America from "day one"? For some reason, Joe Sabia doesn't mention them - I guess he expects us to just take his word for it. How about... Ernest Thompson Seton? He is acknowledged within scouting as one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America. He was the first Chief Scout of the BSA and his writings formed the basis for Baden-Powell's ideas on scouting. Today, though, he would not be accepted as a scout leader.

Why? Because he did not believe in a personal god and he was antagonistic towards organized religion. According to the Boy Scouts of America, he could not be "the best kind of" citizen and would not be a good moral role model for boys. I'm sure, then, that that is the sort of person to whom Sabia is referring to above. I also have to wonder about the validity of claiming that the BSA was founded "as a proud pro-American organization" when Scouting was first organized in Britain and is today an international movement. The facts don't seem to be entirely compatible with Sabia's claim.

Sabia's vehemence here is rather strange. Scouting programs in other countries admit atheists and gays without having been turned into "a sick version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." Maybe he considers Americans to be weaker in intellect and ethics than people elsewhere in the world? The Girl Scouts don't make such an effort to exclude gays and atheists, yet they haven't been destroyed. Maybe Sabia considers American boys to be intellectually and morally weaker than American girls?

What would it take for the Boy Scouts of America to admit atheists and gays? Not much, really. In the first place, it would require respecting the right of some people to believe differently than the majority and the right of other people to find members of the same sex attractive. Where is the difficulty in that? This isn't a demand to convert to atheism or to marry a gay Scout, after all.

Now, if the Boy Scouts of America were a genuinely sectarian organization, such a request as what I describe above would be unreasonable. We don't ask the Roman Catholic Church to make priests out of atheists, after all. The BSA is not a sectarian organization, however - they promote themselves as being a group that is open to all boys for the purpose of promoting good character, not for the purpose of promoting particular religious and political beliefs. Once boys actually try to join, though, they find that there are political restrictions on membership.

Why do these restrictions exist? There are two possible reasons: first, that atheism and homosexuality are incompatible with good character, with citizenship, with ethical propriety, and with Scouting, and/or second, that theists and straight boys must be protected from contact with atheists and gays. Are either of these reasons tenable? No.

First, they are both expressions of prejudice which are actually incompatible with the Boy Scouts' mission statement - neither prejudice nor bigotry qualify as ethically upright behavior nor do they foster good citizenship. Secondly, communicating a message of prejudice and bigotry is actually harmful to the young people who are entrusted to the care of the BSA. This organization certainly have a right to express such ideas, but those ideas are so incompatible with the public values that are necessary to a democratic republic that they deserve the strongest form of censure. The BSA is in effect teaching Scouts that they are better citizens than and more moral than atheists and gays - something that is manifestly untrue.

We should also observe that Joe Sabia is severely distorting the facts when he writes that "the Boy Scouts ... stand up for Judeo-Christian principles in their membership criteria." First, bigotry towards gays and atheists is not a principle common to all Jews and Christians. I'm sure that it is an important value to people like Sabia, but many other religionists and theists disagree with it quite strongly. For him to suggest that it is a part of "Judeo-Christian principles" is surely a smear against those Jews and Christians who struggle against hatred.

Because of this, it is absurd to say that "Christianity is the target" when it comes to critiques of the Boy Scouts. I think that Sabia is only saying such things in order to arouse the passion and anger of some readers - by making them think that Christianity is under attack, perhaps they will rise to the defense of the Boy Scouts. In so doing, however, they won't actually be defending Christianity but, rather, defending bigotry and intolerance.

This critique of Joe Sabia's article "More Church, Less State" continues tomorrow. Part Two appeared yesterday.

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