Finding an organization more all-American than the Boy Scouts would be hard. Take it from someone who is blessed to have not one, but two sons achieve the distinction of becoming Eagle Scouts -- this organization is up there with baseball and apple pie. According to its charter, it exists to “promote … the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others … and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred virtues.”
Since 1910, that’s exactly what the Boy Scouts have been doing. Thousands of men today in positions of leadership, from soldiers to salesmen, began learning lessons in responsibility when they were Scouts. Which makes it all the more curious that the city of Philadelphia is determined to kick its local Scout council -- the “Cradle of Liberty,” seventh largest council in the nation -- out of the building it’s been meeting in for 80 years.
The Scouts may not be facing a formal eviction, but that’s the upshot of an ultimatum that Philadelphia’s city council delivered to the group earlier this year. Eight decades ago, the Scouts made an agreement with the city to pay a nominal rent of $1 a year. How much is the city demanding that they pay now? $200,000. Sadly, that’s not a misprint. The Scouts really are facing a rent hike of $199,999.
The blatant unfairness of the situation is galling -- especially when you consider, as Robert Knight of the Media Research Center has pointed out, that the Scouts “built the building with their own money, and then gave it to the city in 1928.” The Scouts’ lease was “in perpetuity,” notes Bob Unruh, news editor for WorldNetDaily, but the city doesn’t seem to care.
You may be wondering: Have the Scouts done something wrong? Oh, yes. In our politically correct age, they have committed what liberals would call a major sin (if they believed in “sin,” that is): They prohibit openly gay men from serving as Scout leaders. And if this policy strikes you -- as it does me -- as just plain common sense, then welcome to Bizarro World.
“If the Boy Scouts were anti-God, championed homosexuality and were anti-establishment, I would venture to say they would find themselves welcome in Philadelphia,” Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie has commented. “It's the fact that they stick to and seek to promote a responsible and reasonable code of ethics that makes them a target of the anti-family left that tends to dominate urban governments such as Philadelphia’s these days.”
City Solicitor Romulo Diaz -- an open homosexual, according to media reports -- is spearheading the campaign against the Scouts. Officials defend the outrageously high rent hike with typical PC blather. “You cannot be in a city-owned facility being subsidized by the taxpayers,” Councilman Darrell Clarke told The New York Times, “and not have language in your lease that talks about nondiscrimination.” Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court already ruled several years ago that the Boy Scouts are a private organization entitled to set its own membership policies. Clarke and Diaz apparently answer to a different authority.
Perhaps a bigger question is, who’s next? According to Jeff Jubelirer, a spokesman with the Philadelphia Scouts, dozens of other groups could be targeted next. Will, say, the tax-exempt status of some be questioned? Take the Catholic Church, which doesn’t allow women ministers. How would it fare under an extreme PC regime? As Jubelirer says, “How are [city officials] going to justify differentiation in treatment? There are wonderful arts organizations, museums, a public radio station. They’re on that list.”
The hypocrisy at work here is astonishing. How often do radical liberals lecture us about the First Amendment, insisting that it’s meant to protect unpopular points of view from censorship, only to turn around and find some sneaky way to try and muzzle an upstanding group like the Boy Scouts for daring to offend their leftist orthodoxy?
Besides, the Scouts happen to have a logical reason for their policy. “The Scouts bar openly homosexual Scoutmasters and members for moral reasons and for the sake of protecting young boys from possible harm, not because they are motivated by bigotry or prejudice,” Robert Knight says. Their opponents act “as if the Scouts have no rational reason for wanting to determine whether prospective leaders or members are attracted sexually to males.”
Fortunately, the city’s disgraceful campaign against the Scouts hasn’t gone unnoticed by the public. Indeed, writes Bob Unruh, “Citizens outraged by the city's ultimatum crashed the e-mail system of the Philadelphia mayor's office.” But, he also notes, Philadelphia isn’t alone: “City officials in San Francisco and Boston have made similar decisions to displace the Scouts because of the group’s behavior code.”
So whose “behavior code” makes more sense? The Boy Scouts, who make their communities better places to live, as they turn boys into responsible young men? Or PC government officials determined to push a warped social agenda on the rest of us? If you side with the Scouts, learn more and speak up -- responsibly but firmly. Our Scouts deserve nothing less.