Rich Lowry

Are courtesy and cheerfulness religious tenets? Is building a campfire a sacred rite? Is a neckerchief the equivalent of a priest's stole?

In their determination to do legal injury to the Boy Scouts in any way possible, the American Civil Liberties Union and other opponents of the Scouts are effectively answering "yes," "yes" and "yes." In the wake of the Supreme Court's Dale decision in 2000, upholding the right of the Scouts to keep homosexuals from serving as scoutmasters, there has been a wide-ranging effort to punish the Scouts for exercising their First Amendment right of free association. The latest hit, in San Diego, depends on the absurd argument that the Boy Scouts are a kind of church.

Who knew that an institution pulled straight from a Norman Rockwell painting would become "controversial," the contemporary euphemism for "under assault by the Left," and therefore likely to be abandoned by the gutless and easily-cowed everywhere? The Supreme Court just declined to hear a Boy Scout appeal of a Connecticut decision to single them out for exclusion from a list of 900 charities that were part of a state-worker voluntary-donation plan. This might endanger 150-something similar donation plans around the country. Meanwhile, United Way chapters are being pressured to stop donating to the Scouts, and roughly 60 have knuckled under.

This squeeze on charitable giving will hurt most those poor urban kids who can't afford things like their own uniforms. Little do such kids know that in wanting to develop their character and skills they are committing, by extension, alleged acts of bigotry. They are among the 1 million American boys who are collateral damage in the anti-Scout blitzkrieg.

The ACLU is making this "gotcha" argument in San Diego: The Boy Scouts claimed in the Dale case that they are a religious organization, but if they are indeed a religious organization, they shouldn't be receiving public benefits. The Solomonic souls on the San Diego City Council bought it. The city agreed to cancel a lease in Balboa Park with the Boy Scouts and pay the ACLU nearly $1 million in legal fees, thus subsidizing its harassment of the Scouts. Maybe San Diego taxpayers can pony up cash to support the ACLU's work on behalf of exotic dancers next.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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