The problem with the Boy Scouts
9/1/2000 12:00:00 AM - Emmett Tyrrell
WASHINGTON -- America's progressives, liberals, humanitarians, and other self-satisfied poseurs have found a new group to outlaw, the Boy Scouts. We should have seen it coming. On the Tuesday night of the Democratic National Convention a troop of Scouts was booed when it appeared. The rancorous scene reminded me of that police color guard whom progressive Democrats booed a few weeks earlier at their New York state convention. This is serious. As can be seen from the presidential campaign the Democrats' presidential and vice presidential candidates favor law and order and morally upright youths. It is just the agents of law and order and organizations of morally upright youths that makes them uncomfortable. Scholars call this incoherence. To others it is hypocrisy.
Though America's progressives, liberals, humanitarians, and other related goody goodies boast of their love of peace and comity, their record for moral indignation is about as incandescent as that of America's Super Patriots. Yet the Super Patriots of yore generally contained their bile to the pinkos and the foreign born. Today's morally indignant progressives have extended their angers to such diverse groups as the National Rifle Association, the Philip Morris Company, and now the Scouts. There is then a certain cosmopolitanism to their wrath.
What irks them about the Scouts is that the 90-year-old organization bars overt homosexuals from membership. Apparently in the past it was all right for the Scouts to maintain this ban. The progressives' solicitude for homosexuals is quite recent. They regularly drummed homosexuals out of government service during the Cold War, yet now they are prevailing on corporations and state and local governments to cut financial support to the Scouts and to limit their access to parks, schools, and other government property. The New York Times reports that large corporations such as Chase Manhattan Bank and Textron Inc. are taking action against the Scouts. Their complaint is with that ban on overt homosexuality -- I see no evidence that the Scouts are invading Scoutmasters' private lives. Presumably they ban professed playboys from membership too.
Naturally progressives would explain their many years of failing to object to the Scouts' ban in terms of prudence. There were so many more pressing good causes attracting their rage. Apparently those good causes have now been won, and so the progressives turn to the Scouts' ban against homosexuals. When they get that ban overturned, or perhaps the Scouts driven out of business, will the progressives have any more good causes left? Will they finally have succeeded in bringing perfection to America?
Well, there will still be those churches that deny ordination to homosexuals. They will have to be dealt with. And Dr. Laura may still be speaking in public. And then, of course, the progressives will find another good cause. Increasingly, however, their good causes have been undermining personal freedom and the conditions of the free society. One of the conditions of the free society is that we tolerate groups with which we disagree. I disagree with progressives on most of their desiderata, but I do not deny them access to parks, school rooms, and donations from the United Way. I find many of their enthusiasms clearly unconstitutional, for instance their passion against the National Rifle Association and their efforts to ban commerce in things they dislike such as tobacco and fire arms. Yet I tolerate them. They are always good for laughs.
They are also good for sharpening up one's analytical skills. In their assault on the Boy Scouts for the Scouts' alleged intolerance, the progressives are themselves being intolerant. In claiming to favor morally upright youth and singling out the Scouts, whose whole purpose is to encourage morally upright youth, the progressives are again incoherent, or if you will, hypocritical.
The progressives' campaign against the Scouts is another example of the liberals' extremism. It has been a characteristic of them for several decades. They set out on a good cause -- in this case tolerance -- and become intolerant themselves. They call for diversity and end up demanding conformity. The Scouts' ban on homosexuality does not harm homosexuals. It causes them no material damage and no embarrassment -- unless they are, well, a little too sensitive. They might remember Groucho's old line about not wanting to be a part of any club whose standards were so low as to allow him entry. There is wisdom there.