Gays and Boy Scouts

April 27, 2000

The New York Times put it this way: "For anyone wanting a front-row seat at the next battle in the culture wars, the place to be is the Supreme Court later this month when the justices hear the case of Boy Scouts of America vs. James Dale." I agree. The case involving gays and the Boy Scouts promises to be a significant case before the court.

The Boy Scouts are appealing a decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court. James Dale was serving as a volunteer adult leader in a troop. He achieved the rank of Eagle Scout when he was a teenager. But the Monmouth Council revoked his registration when he identified himself as a homosexual in a local newspaper interview. The state court ruled this action violated New Jersey's anti-discrimination law.

The 5-million-member organization argues that they are a private, voluntary organization which should have the freedom to "create and interpret it own moral code." The Boy Scout organization calls for young men to be honest, pure, and upright. They rightly ask, What kind of role model would James Dale be to these boys? Shouldn't the Boy Scouts be able to enforce a moral standard? They also argue that their First Amendment rights supersede the public accommodations law of New Jersey.

James Dale and his lawyers argue that freedom of association has never been regarded as an absolute free-floating right. And they have been joined in amicus briefs by lots of religious and political organizations.

At stake is much more than the Boy Scouts. How the court rules will determine whether homosexuals can serve in positions of leadership where character matters, and it will determine if private organizations are truly private. It's at the heart of the culture wars.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.