John Leo
News stories in The New York Times referred to the Boy Scouts as "almost un-American" and "something akin to a hate group" for refusing to allow homosexuals to become scoutmasters. Both slurs were attributed to vague, unnamed sources.

"Almost un-American"? This must be a large category, since a Newsweek poll found that the public supports the Supreme Court's decision 56 percent to 36 percent. Also in this nearly un-American class would be several state Supreme Courts (four out of five said the Scouts are entitled to determine their own membership without government interference) and virtually the entire U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 362-12 to sustain the Scouts' federal charter.

"Akin to a hate group"? Only if traditional morality is now officially a form of hate. Boy Scouts are explicitly taught to respect all their fellow citizens. The Scouts issue no anti-gay vitriol and have joined no political alliance to oppose gays. The Scouts' brief to the Supreme Court said simply: "We can respect the plea of many gay and lesbian Americans not to have the majority's morality imposed on them. By the same token, we ask that a contrary morality not be forced upon private associations like the Boy Scouts ..."

That is the central issue here. Gays, supported by most of the media and the cultural elite, see this purely as a issue of discrimination and access. But there's another way of looking at it: Can the moral vision of a dominant elite be forced on private associations under cover of anti-discrimination laws? Understandably, gays want homosexuality to be normalized. The Scouts do not wish to be conscripted into the normalization process. In effect, the Scouts said to gays, take your case to the American people and persuade them if you can, but do not force us to be part of your effort.

Elite notions were on full display in last year's 7-0 ruling against the Scouts by the New Jersey Supreme Court, the most radical of the state courts. Chief Justice Deborah Poritz dismissed the traditional moral objections to homosexuality as "little more than prejudice." But it isn't the job of any justice to deride or dismiss anybody's moral code. And it isn't the job of a judge to psychoanalyze a party to a case and announce that principle isn't involved, merely prejudice and antipathy.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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