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Thursday February 15, 2001

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Finally, Boy Scouts get a break

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By Tom McDermott

Help appears to be on the way for the embattled Boys Scouts of America. A bill (HB 2403) that would prohibit local governments from denying public funding or access to a non-profit group because of its beliefs recently passed a committee vote in the state legislature. The bill is a response to the recent anti-Boy Scout actions of Tucson and several school districts.

Tucson has withheld funding from the Boy Scouts and has threatened to pull its yearly $1.7 million donation to the United Way if it does not do the same. The city of Tempe has also pressured the United Way to discontinue funding to the Boy Scouts. The Sunnyside School District charges the Boy Scouts $50 per meeting to use its facilities, but does not charge the fee to any other non-profit group.

It is encouraging to see Arizona lawmakers standing up to the strong-arm tactics of the radical homosexual rights agenda. The Supreme Court's denial of gay rights advocates' request (to force the Boy Scouts to drop their long-standing policy of prohibiting membership to avowed homosexuals in Boy Scouts vs. Dale) has promulgated all-out war.

The Boy Scouts have become the great white whale to the gay rights agenda's Captain Ahab. No one may rest until the kids who help old ladies across the street are destroyed.

In city after city, gay rights advocates have pressured lawmakers to de-fund, de-sponsor, or otherwise deny access to the Boy Scouts. They have been successful to some extent. However, the forthright and virtuous Boy Scouts, young and old, have refused to capitulate to their demands, as countless spineless corporations and politicians have upon incurring the wrath of the well-funded gay rights agenda for the slightest transgression.

We could spend all day debating about complicated legal doctrines like whether or not BSA fits the definition of a place of public accommodation (it does not), or whether BSA's First Amendment right to expressive association allows the exclusion of homosexuals (it does). But when you get right down to it, I think Scout Law says it best.

Scout Law says, "A Scout is obedient. A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them."

That is exactly what the Scouts and friends of the Scouts are attempting to do with HB 2403 - change unfair rules.

The bill is about equal access and the allocation of public resources in viewpoint-neutral manner. Some argue that an organization that discriminates should expect to be discriminated against.

But a private organization exercising its right to exclude whomever it wishes is an entirely different matter than a concerted effort by government officials to single out and condemn an organization with which they disagree. The campaign against the Boy Scouts is especially disgraceful in light of the years of dedicated community service they have provided.

Let's be frank. The Left in general has always loathed the Scouts. Hateful characterizations of the Scouts like "fascist paramilitary organization" and "Hitler Youth" were prevalent long before anyone heard of James Dale.

The passage of HB 2403 would be a victory not only for the thousands of Scouts in Arizona, but for all private organizations. Since passage of the Civil Rights Act, ensuring full and complete access to public facilities if such facilities are made available to other similarly situated groups of people has been at the core of the modern concept of liberty and justice.

A public recognition of the mean-spirited retaliation against the BSA has finally occurred in the Arizona state legislature. Let's hope it continues elsewhere.