woody_zimmerman_118_2007Last week’s barrage of letters in response to my article “War on the Boy Scouts” was quite instructive – although possibly not in the way many writers intended. Many of those writers denounced me as “hateful, mean-spirited, ill-informed, ignorant, intolerant,” etc. One writer called my comments “filth” – a new benchmark for me, certainly. Even a minister wrote to pronounce my writing “shameful.”

That aside, I did glean a good deal from those letters. (Most of them can be found in the Herald’s Letters page.) For simplicity, I’ll gather the lessons-learned under these main headings:

  • Political lessons;
  • The Boy Scouts;
  • Wider issues.

Political Lessons.

1) Free Speech. Several writers instructed me on Free Speech. I hadn’t realized that it is considered only “conditional” by so many. Of course, every schoolboy knows (or used to know) that there are practical limits on free speech – e.g., yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater, etc. But the writers protesting me didn’t mean that. Most claimed that they “believed” in free speech, but… with an exception. That exception was what they called “hate speech” – a term not found in the Constitution. Since they placed my article in that category, my speech became illegitimate and thus unprotected. Not every writer was comfortable with that exclusion, however. One insisted that even “hateful” speech should be allowed – meaning that I was “damned with faint praise.” Generally, though, the verdict was that my article constituted “hate speech,” so I must be denounced, condemned, and (preferably) banned. Several writers demanded that my column be retracted by the Herald, with an apology posted for having published it. (The Herald’s editor declined to do this, although he did distance himself, personally, from my views about gays and the Scouts.)

2) Argument and Disagreement. People who sympathize with and defend gays and the gay political/social agenda have acquired the habit of denouncing any point of view they dislike as “hate speech.” In their calculus, this trumps any further debate. They seem to believe it is an indefensible charge. Many readers who thus denounced my article live in New Jersey, since the Herald’s readership is largely drawn from that area. If their public school educations taught them to argue issues in this way, then we are in a lot more trouble than I thought. I hope it’s not so, but the evidence presented here is not encouraging.

3) Right of Association. The Legal Information Institute writes: “The Supreme Court has expressly recognized that a right to freedom of association and belief is implicit in the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.” And, as previously noted in this column, the Supreme Court ruled in Boys Scouts of America, et al vs. Dale that the constitutional right to freedom of association allows a private organization like the BSA to exclude someone from membership when “…the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group's ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.” The Court could not have made that ruling had the Boy Scouts been engaged in any illegal activity.

Thus, the BSA is within its rights to exclude from leadership or membership any persons who advocate a moral code at odds with the organization’s code. But none of this cuts any ice with those who criticized me. If they have any understanding of the Right of Association, I saw no sign of it. They want gays in the Boy Scouts, and that’s it! (And don’t bother them with any inconvenient facts about the Constitution or the Supreme Court.) Evidently, obeying Supreme Court rulings is optional. And all along I thought you really had to pay attention to that stuff. (As I said, there was a lot to be learned from those responses.)

The Boy Scouts.

1) Experts. Although I didn’t make an exact count, my strong impression was that a majority of the angriest letters were written by women. Many of those letters preached about dynamics in the Boy Scouts as though the writers really knew. Remarkable! How would women know anything about being a Boy Scout, except from second-hand info? More than that, why would they care what the Scouts are or do? Why is it so important to change the Scouts from what they have historically been? Very mysterious. I have my views on this, but let’s move on. There are other lessons of greater moment.

2) The Oath. Several writers lectured me about the Scout Oath, from which I had quoted directly. They claimed that the Oath doesn’t mean what it plainly says. One writer said the “morally straight” passage means only honesty in your conduct and dealings; another said nothing in the Oath bars homosexuality. One of those writers was a woman, who certainly could not have been a Boy Scout. I couldn’t tell if the other writer was an ex-Scout or not.

However, I was in the Scouts for 3 years, and I can report that we had no doubt – even in the nifty ‘50s – what the Oath meant. Yes, it certainly covered honest dealings, but it also informed our sexual conduct – i.e., our “normal” relationships with girls and women. There was no question that homosexuality was completely out of bounds. It is only in these latter days that outsiders have attempted to reform the Oath’s meaning. I’m sure I’ll get blasted over this again, but I stand by my experience.

Perhaps the gay community thinks homosexuality is now considered normal. I’m sorry, but this is not settled across the country, even if it is in New Jersey. Thirty-two states have amended their constitutions to make same-sex marriage illegal. Millions of families do not want their boys exposed to homosexuality. They do not want the gay lifestyle modeled in the Scouts by “friendly,” sympathetic males. So get mad and yell “hate speech!” Kick over the trash can if you want, but there it is. Paraphrasing Lincoln – just calling something “normal” doesn’t make it so.

3) Children. One writer claimed that gay leadership in the Scouts is no different from men coaching girls’ softball teams. (I actually laughed out loud when I read that.) Last I checked, softball coaches don’t go on campouts with the girls on their teams, or take showers with them. (If they do, softball has changed more than I realized.) Leading a Scout troop and coaching softball are not equivalent roles. Would the Girl Scouts permit male leaders?

Another writer said pedophilia is not part of “gay morality” (whatever that is). I did not say in my original article that all homosexual men are pedophiles. If readers inferred that, they were mistaken. However, all male molesters of boys are clearly homosexual. We know that male sexuality is very strong and easily tempted, and gay sexuality is known to be highly promiscuous. When a man becomes fixated on children, it is very difficult – perhaps impossible – to change him. Therapeutic attempts to convert men from an obsession with pedophilia have been largely unsuccessful.

With communities now attempting to identify pedophiles for life, I cannot believe there is still argument or misunderstanding about this issue. And I am astonished that so many people are willing to play “let’s pretend” about putting boys under the control of gay men. A letter-writer called pedophilia a “false issue,” but many parents will be unwilling to gamble on this. Would anyone argue similarly for putting girls at risk? Is a boy’s future emotional health of so little value that it must be endangered just to make a political point? I’m embarrassed for those who advocate such a course, and I don’t care how many camp-followers come out of the woodwork to try to shout me down. People who care about children don’t do these things.

Wider Issues.

1) Ignorance. I was accused of this by several writers. No one knows everything – certainly not I – but I do know something about deviant scout leaders. People who didn't have the personal, near-miss experience I had as a boy may find it easier to be “theoretical” about mixing gay men with young boys. I knew several molestation victims personally. It was not trivial or theoretical for them. On the other hand, I met gay men in musical theater. I had no personal animus toward them, so we had no problem working together as adults. But the vulnerability of boys is an important issue with the BSA and parents. Freedom of association is another. I'm a little surprised that gays and gay-sympathetic people can't see the importance of the latter point, particularly. They would be mightily offended if a militant “straight” cadre tried to infiltrate their organizations and take control, thus diluting their message and initiatives.

2) Intolerance. Is there a worse crime in the societal catalog today than this? Maybe not. But there is certainly much misunderstanding about the difference between “tolerance” and “acceptance.” As a free citizen of our Republic, I tolerate beliefs held by other free citizens, which I do not necessarily accept. I tolerate those beliefs because our political compact says I am free to go about my business, as others go about theirs. I embrace the understanding that my government won’t force me to violate my conscience by compelling acceptance of any of these beliefs or the practices that may proceed from them.

It is when that understanding – call it the “citizens’ agreement” – is broken that push comes to shove. At the modern gay movement’s start, its adherents piteously pleaded only to be “left alone” to express their sexuality in the privacy of their homes. Americans took them at their word. But gays lied – or they changed their minds. Now – with the power of an intrusive government as their ally – they insist that we must accept their lifestyle as a societal “norm.” They want visibility in every kind of role and social construct; they must be not just tolerated but fully accepted. This is the rub with gay “marriage” and gays in the Boy Scouts.

Whatever readers may think, I’m not a “hater.” But like millions of my fellow citizens, I don’t like to be pushed around, either. I urge gays and gay-sympathizers to reappraise the difference between tolerance and acceptance, and to respect the citizens’ agreement that once allowed people of different beliefs to live in harmony. We must have that again. It is essential for preservation of a tranquil society.

3) Rights. De rigueur in contemporary progressive politics is the idea that any practice desired by some advocacy group automatically becomes a “right.” Thus, progressives believe that full legitimacy of the gay lifestyle, including gay marriage, across all of American society are rights that must be enforced to guarantee “full equality” of gays. This is the fallacy on which the entire gay agenda is based. In closing these observations, I cite comments on this point from Daniel H. Williams that appeared recently in the Washington Times:

“Implicit in the demands for homosexual rights is the proposition that homosexuals are a new minority group in America. The same sort of civil rights movement that fought discrimination based on the color of skin is now being trotted out to defend the right to sexual preference.

“The moral, historical and cultural arguments that compelled a nation to take notice of equality of race is sorely lacking in the case for recognizing the homosexual "minority." The kind of confusion about the meaning of minority status is evident. For example, The New Civil Rights Movement [blog] advocates homosexual rights and ‘marriage’ as an absolute freedom. As far as this group is concerned, homosexuals are a persecuted minority that deserve new legal protections. On what social or ethical grounds they can be considered a minority community is never defined. Instead, freedom is defined almost exclusively as freedom of choice (in this case, sexual preference).

“We have come to believe that the act of making choices is intrinsically virtuous when, in fact, many of our choices are extrinsically vicious, such as pedophilia, prostitution and pornography. Such ‘choices’ are still unlawful, whether a crime is committed in one's own home or at the local mall. The reason is not hard to find: Sexual activity is not a constitutional right that society must protect. Civil rights leaders fought for a fundamental principle, not for a mere choice.

“Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the homosexual rights campaign is that we are no longer permitted to regard homosexual behavior as a moral subject that deserves careful and deliberate consideration. The arguments over whether homosexuality is genetic or whether homosexual parenting harms or enables a child's development are far from over. Instead, we are presented with the conversation-stopper called ‘homosexual rights.’ By presenting the issue as one of minority rights, activists attempt to end the discussion rather than win it.”