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Austin Cline

Misleading Defense of Boy Scouts' Bigotry

By May 4, 2004

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There are a lot of people in America who support the Boy Scouts. When they attempt to support the Scouts' policies of discrimination, however, they almost never do so honestly. This is to be expected because most American's don't want the government to participate in religious or sexual discrimination, even if through outside agencies. Thus, the only way to convince people that it is acceptable for the government to support the Boy Scouts' bigotry and discrimination is to mislead them about what is really going on. Mark Pulliam writes for BSA Legal:
Judge Napoleon Jones has become the first jurist in America to rule that a city must discriminate against a nonprofit organization for professing a belief in God. What would the Founding Fathers think? ... Judge Jones' ruling rests on the premise that the Boy Scouts -- solely because of their belief in God -- is a "religious organization," and that by allowing the Scouts to lease city-owned land it is therefore "advancing religion" and "religious indoctrination."

Pulliam, identified as a "lawyer," isn't especially honest. Judge Jones' ruling rests on the fact that the Boy Scouts themselves argue that they are a "religious organization. In a 1998 legal brief filed in Kansas by lawyers for the Boy Scouts, it was made clear that they are a religious organization:

"Although Boy Scouts of America is not a religious sect, it is religious, and, while the local council is not a house of worship like a church or a synagogue, it is a religious organization."

Because the Boy Scouts are a "religious organization," they cannot be given any special favors by the government. They must be treated equally with all other organizations. Right now, the lease they have is a special favor - others don't get deals like this and there wasn't exactly any competitive bidding for the lease. Because of this, the lease must be invalidated.

What is so important about preventing kids from enjoying what the Boy Scouts have to offer?

Of course, no one has suggested that any child be prevented from joining the Boy Scouts. No one has suggested that the organization be forcibly closed. The argument is, rather, that the government should be prevented from helping the Boy Scouts in their religious and discriminatory pursuits. Pulliam knows this, therefore this comment should be viewed for what it is: an attempt to incite negative emotions by raising an issue that is irrelevant. Did I mention that Mark Pulliam is a lawyer?

This litigation must be seen for what it really is -- an attempt by a vocal minority to impose its religion-free beliefs on a predominantly religious majority of Americans.

No one is attempting to get any Americans to stop following their religion and joining with like-minded people to advance their religious causes. Instead, the argument is that the government shouldn't be involved with supporting those religious causes. Again, it must be assumed that Pulliam knows this. Have I pointed out yet that Mark Pulliam is a lawyer?

I'm hesitant about calling someone an outright liar, but I'm not sure what other label would more accurately describe Mark Pulliam. He argues as though the judge's decision would entail treating the Boy Scouts worse than other groups, which if true would indeed be something worth complaining about. In reality, though, the judge's decision is that the city should not treat the Boy Scouts better than other groups.

There's a big difference between the two situations. Pulliam wouldn't be the first to pretend that there is anti-religious bias behind the insistence that a particular church or religious group not get special treatment. Whenever someone loses their position of privilege, they whine and cry about how it's "unfair" and that they "deserve" to be treated special. Frankly, it's a perversion of the very notion of liberty and rights to complain about the loss of special treatment and a leveling of the playing field.

The Boy Scouts, as a private organization, have a right to discriminate against anyone and any group for any reason they wish. The Boy Scouts, as a religious organization, have a right to pursue their religious goals and teach their religious message to any boys who join them. As a discriminatory and religious organization, however, they do not have the right to get government aid to support and further their discriminatory and religious goals. Indeed, the government has a positive obligation not to get involved in such matters because the government exists for all citizens and should never send the message that such discriminatory policies or religious goals are favored.

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Comments
August 10, 2009 at 5:40 pm
(1) Michael says:

Right now, the lease they have is a special favor – others don’t get deals like this and there wasn’t exactly any competitive bidding for the lease.

Presumably the author has read enough to discover that the lease involves a commitment of the Boy Scouts to develop and maintain the resources at their own cost, to the tune of millions of dollars that the City of San Diego does not need to tax its citizens for. Or that the city did survey 42 other non-profit organizations and concluded that the Boy Scouts was uniquely qualified to take on this responsibility. And presumably, the author knows full well that his term “special favor” is, at best, a grossly inaccurate expression.

The argument is, rather, that the government should be prevented from helping the Boy Scouts in their religious and discriminatory pursuits.

Presumably, the author knows that the resources in question are open to public use, are heavily used by the public, and that there has never been anyone barred from their usage for any religious or discriminatory reasons.

Whenever someone loses their position of privilege, they whine and cry

Presumably the author knows that the plaintiffs in the case don’t even claim that they were denied access to the resources, but rather claim an ambiguous sense of “feeling offended.”

I don’t want to call the author an outright liar, but assertion that the Boy Scouts, at their own expense, providing free of charge to the city, a public good available for use by all citizens- regardless of religion, sexuality, membership or any other criteria, is “perversion of the very notion of liberty and rights” is at best, a misinformed and misguided attack against the facts in this case.

August 10, 2009 at 6:20 pm
(2) Austin Cline says:

Presumably the author has read enough to discover that the lease involves a commitment of the Boy Scouts to develop and maintain the resources at their own cost, to the tune of millions of dollars that the City of San Diego does not need to tax its citizens for.  

I never said that the city doesn’t benefit from the arrangement, but if anything that makes the situation worse: they are benefiting from giving special privileges to a bigoted group that engages in discrimination which the city itself could never legally or morally do.

The argument is, rather, that the government should be prevented from helping the Boy Scouts in their religious and discriminatory pursuits.

Presumably, the author knows that the resources in question are open to public use, are heavily used by the public, and that there has never been anyone barred from their usage for any religious or discriminatory reasons.  

Irrelevant, since the fact remains that the government is actively aiding bigotry and discrimination.

Presumably the author knows that the plaintiffs in the case don’t even claim that they were denied access to the resources, but rather claim an ambiguous sense of “feeling offended.”  

I never claimed that anyone was denied access to the resources in question; instead, the claim is that the city is providing special privileges and aid to an organization that is bigoted and discriminatory. My understanding of the law is that this is illegal.

Feel free to explain your understanding of the law. To be more specific: do you believe that it is legal for governments to provide special benefits to discriminatory organizations when those benefits aren’t made available to anyone else? If so, upon what basis does such authority rest and do you think that such policies are ethical?

I don’t want to call the author an outright liar,

Which is appropriate, since you don’t cite a single instance where I have claimed anything that is contrary to the facts.

but assertion that the Boy Scouts, at their own expense, providing free of charge to the city, a public good available for use by all citizens- regardless of religion, sexuality, membership or any other criteria, is “perversion of the very notion of liberty and rights” is at best, a misinformed and misguided attack against the facts in this case.

What I describe as a “perversion of the very notion of liberty and rights” is, quite clearly, complaints that a loss of special, unjust privileges is somehow actually a loss of rights. What’s more, the source of this perversion is clearly described as Mark Pulliam (and people like him), not the BSA (except insofar as they repeat Pulliam’s arguments).

It’s inconceivable that you could not understand this context since you actually quote it just before you gross misrepresentation. I don’t want to call the commenter a liar, but the assertion that my words mean something radically different from what the context entails, when that commenter clearly recognizes and even cites the context, is at best a misinformed and misguided attack against the facts.

May 4, 2010 at 10:18 pm
(3) Just A Sayin' says:

Does your atheist group include religious people in it’s leadership, or is it ‘bigoted and discriminatory’. I surely hope you aren’t getting use of any public facilities, if that’s so….

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