What Disturbs Me About Dale-Era Boy Scouts of America

I’m sure most readers of this blog have heard of Boy Scouts v. Dale, the case holding that the Boy Scouts had a First Amendment right not to admit homosexuals as Scout leaders.

Of particular interest is the argument made by the Scouts, which the court ultimately accepted:

The Boy Scouts asserts that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values embodied in the Scout Oath and Law, particularly with the values represented by the terms ‘morally straight’ and ‘clean.’ . . . The Boy Scouts asserts that it ‘teach[es] that homosexual conduct is not morally straight.’

The problem with that statement, in my eyes, is that it is completely dishonest.

I have had some experience in the Boy Scouts. Like many Mormons, I earned my Eagle Scout. I participated in Scout activities for my youth, in three different areas, and in four different troops. And I was never once told that my recitation of the Scout Oath or Scout Law was a coded statement that I would not engage in homosexual acts.

The Scouts are certainly capable of telling boys what to do. They told me not to cut towards myself with a knife. They told me not to play with fire, and not to litter. They told me not to lie, and not to be discourteous. But I was never once told, “Don’t be a homosexual.”

Now perhaps someone simply decided I didn’t need such counsel. I was a churchgoing LDS kid, clearly interested in girls rather than boys, and I did get some measure of indoctrination against homosexuality in church. But the fact is that no one in Scouts ever told me not to be gay. No one told me that my recitation of the Scout Oath or Scout Law was a secret promise not to be gay. And many of my fellow scouts came from religious environments that did not condemn homosexuality — and as far as I could tell, they weren’t told not be gay either.

And now, suddenly, after the fact, I’m told that every time I was reciting the Scout Oath or Scout Law, I was promising to remain heterosexual. I am stunned by the magnitude of the dishonesty in that position. It seems that the Scouts, as a group, have abandoned integrity in favor of a revisionist history that is favored by conservative groups (including the church) who provide major financial support to Scout groups.

I am curious whether my experience was anomalous. Perhaps other readers of this blog, who were Scouts, were told that their promises to be “clean” or to be “morally straight” were a form of promising heterosexuality. If others have had any such experiences, I would be happy to hear them. For now, based on my own observation, I can only conclude that in making the arguments they did, the Scouts abandoned the first principle of the Scout Law — “A Scout is Trustworthy.”

47 comments for “What Disturbs Me About Dale-Era Boy Scouts of America

  1. Gary Cooper
    February 26, 2004 at 2:17 pm

    This is my first time to post a comment to this fine site. Here is my question: Did the Scouts ever tell you not to read pornography? Not to molest children? Not to cheat on your taxes? Etc. My point here is that teaching to be morally straight does not mean dispensing a laundry list of don’ts. Your scout leaders probably assumed that it was your parents’ duty to go into the details of chastity, which is certainly true. The fact that they never told you to specifically avoid homosexuality does not mean they are being dishonest when they say the Scout oath forbids sodomy, anymore than would be the case with child molestation and the other sins I mentioned above. I would be disturbed if the Scouts were to start going into the details of what to avoid sexually, as that is the role of parents and church.

  2. andy
    February 26, 2004 at 2:24 pm

    I am struck by your contention that you “earned [your] Eagle Scout.” In the Church, we all know that MOTHERS earn the Eagle Scout!!!!

    Or at least in my case. :)

  3. February 26, 2004 at 2:27 pm

    Kaimi, perhaps your Scouting experience was different because (I assume) it was done within the church? Isn’t that a big difference?

    As I understand it the Scouts were always quasi-religious. While I can’t speak to the development the last 50 years, Powell was rather explicit in his writings on the subject.

    “….We aim for the practice of Christianity in their everyday life and dealings, and not mearly the profession of theology on Sundays…. The co-operation of tiny sea insects has brought about the formation of coral islands. No enterprise is too big where there is goodwill and co-operation carrying it out. Every day we are turning away boys anxious to join the Movement, because we have no men or women to take them in hand. There is a vast reserve of loyal patriotism and Christian spirit lying dormant in our nation today, mainly because it sees no direct opportunity for expressing itself. Here in this joyous brotherhood there is a vast opportunity open to all in a happy work that shows the results under your hands and a work that is worth while because it gives every man his chance of service for his fellow-men and for God.” – (Scouting For Boys, 1908)

  4. Nate
    February 26, 2004 at 2:42 pm

    Kaimi: Is the conclusion of your complaint supposed to be that when the question of homosexuality’s relationship to the Scouts’ concept of “moraly strait” IS explicitly raised that the State of New Jersey, rather than the Scouts, get to answer the question? Could I require that the American Prospect hire Richard Posner as an editor on the ground that they didn’t specify that they weren’t standing for THAT kind of liberalism?

  5. Adam Greenwood
    February 26, 2004 at 2:55 pm

    what did you think they meant by ‘morally straight’?

  6. Greg Call
    February 26, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    If Kaimi would have looked up “morally straight” in his Scout handbook, it would have said:

    “To be a person of strong character, guide your life with honesty, purity, and justice. Respect and defend the rights of all people. Your relationships with others should be honest and open. Be clean in your speech and actions, and faithful in your religious beliefs. The values you follow as a Scout will help you become virtuous and self-reliant.”

    If he would have looked up “clean” he would see:

    “A Scout is CLEAN. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He chooses the company of those who live by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean.

    “You never need to be ashamed of dirt that will wash off. If you play hard and work hard you can’t help getting dirty. But when the game is over or the work is done, that kind of dirt disappears with soap and water.

    “There’s another kind of dirt that won’t come off by washing. It is the kind that shows up in foul language and harmful thoughts.

    “Swear words, profanity, and dirty stories are weapons that ridicule other people and hurt their feelings. The same is true of racial slurs and jokes making fun of ethnic groups or people with physical or mental limitations. A Scout knows there is no kindness or honor in such mean-spirited behavior. He avoids it in his own words and deeds. He defends those who are targets of insults.”

    Now I think that the Court was right in Dale, and that the Boy Scouts are not properly a “public accommodation.” But I agree with Kaimi that the Scouts’ brief overplayed the Scout oath and law.

  7. Aaron Brown
    February 26, 2004 at 3:27 pm

    Kaimi – I really think I have to agree with Gary on this one. That the BSA doesn’t specify every particular behavior or practice that falls under its definition of “morally straight” doesn’t make its stand dishonest.

    Andy – It isn’t always the mother who earns the Eagle Scout. Sometimes it’s the local church leaders who aren’t about to let their troop’s reputation for turning out Eagles in droves fall by the wayside. :>

    Clark – This isn’t technically relevant to your point, but I remember reading a salacious article a few years ago about Lord Baden Powell and his alleged homosexual tendencies toward boys, as evidenced by his voluminous personal diary entries on the subject. Does anyone know anything about this? Or have I just become the dupe of a certain strain of gay propaganda?

    Aaron B

  8. Nate Oman
    February 26, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    Greg: As I recall the Court in Dale DIDN’T adopt the position that the BSA was not a public accomodation. Indeed, I think that the NJ Sup. Ct. explicitly held that they WERE, which is — of course — the end of the matter. I admitt, however, that it has been a while since I read the opinion.

  9. Steve Evans
    February 26, 2004 at 4:18 pm


    You still have your Scout Handbook handy? Wow, “Be Prepared”!!

    I would point out that as a scout in Canada, instead of Eagle Scout you would earn the Chief Scout’s Award, and the recipient was alternatively known as a Queen’s Scout. Let the innuendo begin! Needless to say that Dale would have turned out differently in Canada. As if anyone cares about the Gay Canuck Scouts.

    Also, as an aside, who is this other Steve that’s been posting on T&S? My style is gettin’ cramped.

  10. Greg Call
    February 26, 2004 at 4:41 pm

    I should have been more precise: I think the ultimate result (but not the reasoning) in Dale was right because the NJ Sup Ct was just wrong that the BSA is a public accommodation. I also haven’t read Dale in a while, but I remember having problems with the USSC majority’s first amendment analysis, one of which is the substance of Kaimi’s post. The Scouts are not the Republican Party, and Dale is not David Duke. (For non-politicos, the GOP was allowed, as a matter of free speech, to exclude ex-Klan-honcho Duke from running for office as a Repub.)

  11. Kaimi
    February 26, 2004 at 4:49 pm


    Thanks for rolling out the factual support. (And I’ll note that no one seems to have any evidence of pre-Dale instruction that these phrases mean heterosexuality).


    Scout leaders told me not to read porn and that child abuse was wrong (the lessons I got were mostly of the “if someone tries to abuse you” sort, rather than the “don’t abuse others,” but the implication was clear).

    Scout leaders did not ever even mention homosexuality.

    And I don’t think it’s like cheating on your taxes, which is unambiguously against the trustworthiness requirement.

    The fact is that homosexuality is considered wrong by some people, while it is considered normal by others, including many religious groups. Other churches have gay priests, remember. It can’t be included in the idea that “everyone knows it’s not morally straight” — should the Episcopalian kid assume his priest his not morally straight? Scouts, in my experience, stayed out of religious conflicts. They had no position on whether the Book of Mormon was true, for example.

    If Scouts were taking such religion-specific positions (and they weren’t), they should have been a lot more clear than they were. Look at Greg’s definitions. And the pretense that these terms have had these meanings all along, seems to be an abandonment of honesty or integrity.

  12. February 26, 2004 at 4:55 pm

    I imagine BSA didn’t include “don’t be gay” under the definition of “morally straight” because they didn’t foresee a time when that would be a major issue confronting their organization. Also, they probably didn’t have lawyers helping them draft the bylaws of the Scout Oath. It’s a shame they didn’t. Wouldn’t the legally-precise bylaws be an interesting document to read?

  13. paul
    February 26, 2004 at 5:11 pm

    In the church, your scout master is almost always, if not always, your deacons quorum advisor. Therefore, there isn’t a necessity to talk about something as uncomfortable as homosexuality (especially to giggling twelve year old boys) on Sunday and then again on Wednesday. However, my experience with troops outside the church has been that they bring up these moral issues rather frequently. I know this doesn’t specifically address your argument Kaimi, but may help exlain why it wasn’t ever brought up in your troops.

  14. February 26, 2004 at 5:16 pm

    While it is true that the rise of liberal Christianity did significantly change how religious positions were perceived, I think that by and large most American Christians assumed that it was obvious that homosexuality was a sin. If scouts are, as seems clear, a kind of quasi-Christian organization (even more explicit in Mormonism) then to not see it having a position on homosexuality seems odd.

    Put more particularly, lots of things are explicitly stated but take their meaning from the culture they are part of. That sort of thing doesn’t please lawyers, of course, who want all t’s crossed and i’s dotted. But then I suspect in part that is the great divide between lawyers and the public. (grin)

  15. Greg Call
    February 26, 2004 at 5:23 pm

    I don’t buy it. I’ve been a scout and a scoutmaster, and think its a great organization. But the reason homosexuality doesn’t come up is because it is simply not part of the Scouts’ public message. Except in court. If I remember right, the Scoutmaster handbook says something like “if a scout asks you about sex issues, tell him to ask his parents or church leaders.”

  16. Gary Cooper
    February 26, 2004 at 5:31 pm


    Alright, so your scout leaders did tell you to avoid porn and clearly counseled that child sex is wrong. And cheating on taxes, I agree, ought to be clearly wrong based on the scout principle of Trustworthiness. But, that illustrates my point. “It ought to be clear”, yet sure enough, to my knowledge, nothing in scout literature or otherwise specifically mentions tax cheating. Likewise, nothing in Scouting openly discusses necrophilia or sadomasochistic bondage, but the Purity and Cleanliness principles would imply these things are wrong.

    The problem here goes to the heart of the cultural conflict that is taking place in the world and in the US. As a culture, we have lived so long off the residual moral waters left by previous generations’ (relative)righteousness, that we only now are beginning to realize that the cistern has been broken for some time. Not surprisingly, not everybody can see certain things as clearly by the sparks of light our culture generates as earlier generations could whose light was brighter. (Sorry for the not-so-subtle Isaiah references, but I love his poetry.) When the Scouts were first formed, homosexuality was universally recognized in most Western countries as morally unclean. Now, so many things that once were easily implied now can’t be made clear to some people in this telestial world we live in, no matter what evidences are submitted.

    This whole issue boils down to this: in a society that increasingly abides by the doctrine of Korihor rather than Christ, those opposed to the Lord’s standards aren’t content to be free to do as they please–they insist that others openly embrace what they do, and can’t stand the idea that others might even be THINKING that their conduct is wrong. I fail to see the difference between a governmental entity ordering the Scouts to accept homosexuals and that same entity ordering any church to do so.

    It may appear that I’ve just changed the subject, because, Kaimi, you were really only addressing the issue of whether the Scouts were being disingenuous on this issue. Yet I see this as the real issue– if as a Latter-day Saint I’m supposed to look for the hand of God in all things, it also behooves me to look for Satan’s hand too, and with regard to Scouting being forced to accept homosexuals, which kingdom’s interests are being served?

    Perhaps the fact that I was once a radical socialist in my pre-LDS days may pre-condition me, but I see the attempt to force homosexuality into the Scouts as just a backdoor attempt to force it into the churches, and Whose church might Satan really be aiming at? It simply amazes me that while many of my non-LDS Christian friends see this, very few church members I discuss this with seem to think this all through to its logical conclusion. Maybe we don’t read the BoM enough, but from what I can tell, Satan will use persuasion when it serves his ends, but he always prefers FORCE to stamp out righteousness, and what better instrument than that entity which holds a monopoly on it: government?

  17. February 26, 2004 at 5:42 pm

    I think the homosexual charge is from the Tim Jeal biography _Baden-Powell_.


    But it appears from the examples I found on the web (not just the above) that the evidence is pretty overwhelming.

    I don’t know that this implies that the religious nature of the organization is somehow different though. To me it is more akin to a Catholic priest being gay. It doesn’t mean the theological pronouncements of the gay priest are somehow *not* their views.

  18. Paul
    February 26, 2004 at 5:53 pm

    This link is a page from the BSA’s argument to the Sup. C/T. Starting with the last paragraph on the left column they explain the process and even admit that there is no specific teaching about homosexuality. However, if you read the entire section there it’s pretty obvious to me that they’ve been nothing but “trustworthy” in their conduct.

  19. Paul
    February 26, 2004 at 5:53 pm

    This link is a page from the BSA’s argument to the Sup. C/T. Starting with the last paragraph on the left column they explain the process and even admit that there is no specific teaching about homosexuality. However, if you read the entire section there it’s pretty obvious to me that they’ve been nothing but “trustworthy” in their conduct.


  20. lyle
    February 26, 2004 at 6:42 pm

    two cheers for gary cooper. yup…that is what it boils down to…force, agency and the atonement.

    trying to interpret the NT in a way that makes it ok to be homosexual is a revisionist reading…which due to people being quiet and doing nothing…has allowed the ‘common understanding’ of ‘morally strait’ to become confused.

    Kaimi…really. don’t you think it was implied? did someone really need to spell it out?

  21. Greg Call
    February 26, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Gary said: “I fail to see the difference between a governmental entity ordering the Scouts to accept homosexuals and that same entity ordering any church to do so.”

    There is a huge difference as a legal matter. First, it is very unlikely that a church would be held to be a public accommodation. Even NJ’s very, very liberal public accommodation law says “Nothing herein contained shall be construed to include or to apply to any institution, bona fide club, or place of accommodation, which is in its nature distinctly private; nor shall anything herein contained apply to any educational facility operated or maintained by a bona fide religious or sectarian institution.”

    And in more conservative states, such as Utah, it is still perfectly legal even for public accommodations (let alone private groups, like a church) to discrimate on the basis of sexual orientation. (So, for example, a Utah restaurant or landlord can have a sign saying, No Gays Allowed.)

    And even if the NJ Sup Ct did somehow find that a church was a public accomodation, the church would simply have establish that part of its public message is that homosexuality is a sin (by pointing a teaching manual or the OT or a public statement or something) and it would win on free speech grounds. And churches have the additional protection of the free exercise clause.

  22. Gary Cooper
    February 26, 2004 at 7:04 pm

    Greg Call said: “”

    Well, Greg, what you are saying is true, under the current court interpretations. Are those interpretations exactly the same as they were 10 years ago? 25 years? 100 years? Are they the same as the Founders? Since the public has swallowed the fiction that the federal courts have the sole and final right to constitutional interpretation, what happens when the courts change their mind and decide that government’s “compelling interest” in protecting against “discrimination” overrides the First Amendment? Will churches be safe then from having the homosexual agenda forced on us? Please don’t tell me that such a scenario would be “impossible” or “absurd”, because the mess in Massachusetts and San Fransisco clearly shows that anything can happen, and constitutional jurisprdence (both federal and state) has become a raw struggle for power, with a majority of the bench able to rule by fiat. Again, the naivete of so many church members amazes me. This is what decades of prosperity and lack of real persecution has done to us–we simply cannot see danger when it stares us in the face.

  23. Nate Oman
    February 26, 2004 at 7:16 pm

    Greg: I think that you are too sanguine about the efficacy of the free speech claim. Remember, we now live in a world in which educational diversity is a compelling state interest. Several state supreme courts have held that eradicating all forms of discrimination is also a compelling state interest. Even if you found, for example, that the application of anti-discrimination laws constituted a subject-matter limitation on speech, you could still find that the restriction was protected by this sort of a compelling state interest. Remember, in Buckley v. Valeo, Brennan (who authored the per curiam) held that even thought the Federal Election Campaign Act (or what ever it was) was a view point discriminatory regulation of speech, the regulation was justified by the compelling state interest in insuring clean elections. In short doctrinally, I don’t think that the case is quite as simple as you make it out to be. As a political matter, I think it unlikely that anyone would try to apply anti-discrimination laws to religious officials, but I don’t think it is so far fetched to imagine a state applying such laws to religious employers, e.g. the Church can discriminate against homosexuals in calling GAs but not in hiring non-ecclesiastical employees. There might be some Lemon-test entanglement problem at this point, but it isn’t even clear that this is a show stopper if you have eradicating all forms of discrimination in the background as a compelling state interest.

  24. Nate Oman
    February 26, 2004 at 7:18 pm

    Buckley — subject matter not view point. My bad.

  25. Greg Call
    February 26, 2004 at 8:11 pm

    I’m not aware of any state court that has held that eliminating discrimination by *private* groups or churches (such as the PGA, the Mormon Church, or the Society for Christian Philosophers), as opposed to public accommodations, housing, employment, is a compelling state interest that can override First Amendment rights. In any event, I can imagine that a state non-discrimination law could apply to church-as-employer or church-as-landlord, but my modest point was that even the most liberal non-discrimination laws now expressly carve out churches and schools run by churches. And judges can’t apply general equal protection principles (as they’ve done with SSM) to churches because there’s no state action. So we’re safe for now, even in New Jersey.

    Whoa. The Boy Scouts *won* in Dale. Undoubtedly legal doctrines will shift over time, but I was just trying to point out that the major difference under current law between the Scouts and a church, which you said you failed to see, and which I think are quite important.

  26. Kaimi
    February 26, 2004 at 8:14 pm


    I don’t think I agree with your assessment of possibilities. In Presiding Bishop v. Amos, the court held that the church could impose religious tests in the hiring of even non-religious employees (a church gym manager). Since Amos, the court has gotten much more conservative — I doubt there is much chance that future Brennans and Douglasses will be not only repudiating Amos, but swinging all the way in the opposite direction.

    (A long line of other decisions, including Serbian Eastern Diocese, suggest that the Supreme Court is very, very reluctant to meddle in internal church affairs).

  27. Richard
    February 26, 2004 at 10:01 pm

    Speaking of revisionist history, wasn’t Lord Baden Powell a closet homosexual? Be that as it may, I vastly enjoyed my scouting years. I was never molesdted. I learned to tie knots, pitch and ditch a tent, and was inducted into the vaunted Order of the Arrow. Never ONCE did the subject of homosexuality ever come up in any of the many meetings I attended. Were there any gays in my troop? Who knows? Who cares? Only a degenerate sicko would essay to pin a defamatory label upon a young man’s scout uniform.

  28. Nate Oman
    February 27, 2004 at 9:00 am

    Kaimi and Greg: Amos simply upheld a statutory exemption from establishment clause attack so I don’t see that it is applicable. I agree as a political matter that it is unlikely that churches are going to be subject to anti-discrimination laws in hiring ministers and the like. On the other hand, it is worth remembering that prior to amendments to Title VII in the 1970s (the amendments challenged in Amost) Churches WERE subject to anti-discrimination laws in non-ministerial functions, although this was in their capacity as employer rather than as a “public accomodation.” I agree that no one is going to uphold a law telling a church who it must have as a church member.

  29. Gary Cooper
    February 27, 2004 at 12:02 pm


    I understand that you were pointing out that you could see a difference between courts ordering the Scouts to accept homosexuals versus ordering churches to do the same. My point is: that such a distinction only exists because a certain majority of federal jurists would agree that there is a distinction; that there are many jurists and legal thinkers who think otherwise and wish to impose the homosexual agenda on the Scouts as preparation to going after churches; and that we must cognizant of this. The danger now is that there is a(increasngly successful)concerted attempt to “capture” the judiciary at the federal and state level, , so that it can be used for overtly political ends which threaten our constitutional republic, and hence threaten the mission of the Church. I see Satan’s hand all over this, the closest historical parallel being the anti-polygamy movement of the 1800’s. The “homosexual legal agenda” thus is a potential battering ram (though not the only one) against the constitutional liberties the Church depends on to perform its mission. I was a little drastic in how I expressed that, so I apologize, but this issue really is worrisome, especially when I have to explain to my non-member but devoutly Christian friends why so many LDS have a blissful “the Lord will take care of this” lethargy.

  30. February 27, 2004 at 1:15 pm


    What “evidence” do you require? As has been said by others, is there really any doubt what it meant to be “morally straight”? To be pure? I don’t remember talking about sexual conduct, except where scouting blending with the young men’s programs. Being “morally straight” however, clearly involved, in both the teaching I received and my general sense of the phrase, an expectation of living a moral life-which includes sexual morality.

    Let me also ask, why the attack on the Boy Scouts, and indirectly on the church for supposedly getting the Scouts to take a more “conservative” position than you think the organization has had or does have? I just don’t get it.

  31. Kaimi
    February 28, 2004 at 4:52 pm


    I thought I made it pretty clear in my initial post — I’m deeply disappointed by the Scouts’ abandonment of honesty and integrity in favor of political expedient.

  32. Nate Oman
    March 1, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    An interesting post script: The California Supreme Court held today that Catholic Social Services could not claim a constitutional exemption from a statute that required it to provide contraceptives to its employees.


  33. March 1, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    Your disappointment, Kaimi, is misplaced. It just seems warranted suggest that the scouts have placed political expediency above honesty and integrity. As I and others have pointed out, can there really be any doubt that Scouting principles of moral uprightness, cleanliness and purity do not promote sexual morality, and hence opposition to homosexuality. I mean really. Calling the Scout’s position “political expedient” rather than merely the correct and moral position also displays an anatagonism against the Scouts and presumabley against the groups, including the church, for whom the Scouts are acting that I frankly just don’t understand.

  34. Greg Call
    March 1, 2004 at 7:21 pm

    Thanks for the link, Nate. From your little squib, I was picturing a Catholic parish’s charity arm being required to have a bowlful of free condoms in the break room. Skimming the opinion indicates that the reality is not quite that ridiculous. The statute at issue required that if a company offered prescription drug coverage as part of its benefits package, it had to include coverage for prescription contraceptives for women. Catholic organizations succeeded in getting a “religious employer” exemption written into the law, but it is a stringent and somewhat illogical standard that the plaintiff here, Catholic Charities, could not meet. Interesting case.

  35. Greg Call
    March 1, 2004 at 7:49 pm


    I see where you’re coming from. But imagine a gay boy that joins a non-denominational troop at age 12. He reads the Handbook cover to cover, memorizing all its precepts about moral cleanliness and straightness. Nothing about homosexuality. When he asks his Scoutmaster about homosexuality, he is told “go ask your parents” (as the Scoutmaster Handbook advises), who tell him don’t worry about it. Scout camps, Order of the Arrow, merit badges follow; no mention of homosexuality. He eventually makes Eagle. Nothing about homosexuality in his Board of Review. Then when he applies to volunteer as an assistant scoutmaster or something, the Scouts say, in effect, “No, you can’t volunteer because having you in our organization would unduly burden our ability to publicly express our strongly-held view that homosexuality is immoral, which you *should have* gleaned from the Oath and Law, though we never said so much.”

    I certainly can understand how he would view this as political expediency.

  36. Nate Oman
    March 2, 2004 at 12:04 pm

    Another interesting civil rights suit, this one against the Salvation Army for preaching religious and sexual intolerance to its employees:


    Of course, this is a very short AP blab, and journalists are notoriously good at misrepesenting legal issues, still it looks interesting. The suit is being pressed by the ACLU of New York. Perhaps Kaimi, who is I believe a member of that chapter, can get us some details…

  37. Nate Oman
    March 2, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    Here is the initial letter sent by the NYCLU to the Salvation Army in November, 2003:


    The hook for the complaint was the fact that the Salvation Army has social services contracts with the city. If the AP story is right (a big if) it looks as though this has escalated into an actual lawsuit. These are the sorts of issues that lead me to believe that Bush’s faith based initiatives are a bad idea. On the otherhand, I suppose that if a religious institution wants to get in bed with the gov’t that’s their choice, but I can’t see that it will be good for the long term health of those religious institutions.

  38. March 2, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    Greg, that is a nice hypothetical, but I find a couple of things troubling about it. First, the assumption that a 12 year old boy would be gay in the first place is truly sad. Second, if his parents tell him “not to worry about homosexuality” that too is truly sad. Third, there is more at issue than just public disapproval of homosexuality when the so-called homosexual former Boy Scout applies to be a leader while publically trumpeting his homosexuality. We don’t have women scout masters, so why would the Scouts allow homosexual men to supervise and have access to young men? You and Kaimi will undoubtedly not like the reference, but the Scouts on this issue have exhibited significantly greater wisdom here, not political expediency, than the Catholic church:

    see http://www.washtimes.com/national/20040227-111236-5901r.htm.

    Again my problem is not so much that the individual in your hypothetical would view the Scout’s action as political expediency, but that Kaimi would. Some would claim that the Scout’s position is more than political expediency but rather it is based on hatred, bigotry and intolerance. My experience with the Scouts has been otherwise. These issues were not relevant in years past. It is only in the past 10-20 years that suddenly this has become an issue. I think the Scouts have taken the morally correct position on this and not one based purely on political expediency. Furthermore, they have done so to sustain their honesty and integrity not in derogation of such principles.

  39. March 2, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    Nate, what you have suggested is the reasoning behind the Church’s “Thanks but no thanks” position on the faith based initiative. That said, I think it wrong that organizations like the Salvation Army come under attack from the ACLU like this. Don’t they have anything better to do, or does their defense of NAMBLA not take up enough of their time? It’s stories like this that really make people dislike the ACLU.

  40. lyle
    March 2, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    “a 12 year old gay boy”???

    REALLY! Come on. Even if there is ‘a’ genetic component to the issue, the sooner a young sexually maturing boy/girl is taught to “reign” in their sexual desires, the better. Note, this holds re: of orientation doesn’t it? hm…

  41. Nate Oman
    March 2, 2004 at 1:46 pm

    Brent: according to the ACLU letter, the Salvation Army administers $50 million of city funding under contracts to provide social services. In my mind this makes its claims to be exempt from non-discrimination principles that we would want to apply to government actors a bit more difficult.

  42. March 2, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    Nate, I understand the conflict. In fact, I do a lot of work with tax exempt organizations. That said, I do not think we should be forcing tax exempt organizations, especially religous ones, that are willing and able to provide the social services they contract for to accept ideas that they find morally repugnant and contrary to their religious views. Whether or not the Salvation Army approves of homosexuality is completely immaterial to its ability to provide food, clothing and shelter to the needy. To elevate the acceptance of homosexuality as a prerequisite to being an acceptable contributor to society just seems absurd. Do we value organizations like the Salvation Army and the Boy Scouts and the good we do, or do we not? That seems to be the real question.

  43. Greg Call
    March 2, 2004 at 2:25 pm

    Brent: My experience with Scouting is like yours; I have never seen any hatred, bigotry or intolerance whatsoever. And I don’t think their *position* on openly gay leaders is based on political expediency. All I was suggesting was their their first amendment *arguments* in the Dale case could reasonably be seen as politically expedient. As I wrote earlier, I think they should have won because they are not a public accommodation. But once they lost at the NJSC on the state law issue, the first amendment claim was probably their only shot at getting a reversal from the Sup. Ct.

    Anyway, you suggest that the real rationale behind the Scouts policy is to prevent pedophiles from having access to boys. I have three problems with that claim: (1) the policy is not effective because it only prevents *openly* gay leaders from participation. Presumably, pedophiles will try to conceal their sexual orientation, as well as their criminal predelictions; (2) as I recall, in Court the Scouts didn’t say a word about this rationale of their policy; they said it was about their freedom of expression; (3) it is unwarranted (and indeed offensive) to suggest that all (open) gays are pedophiles, or even that they are more likely to be pedophiles (which may account for (2)).

  44. lyle
    March 2, 2004 at 2:34 pm


    Waddya think? Wouldn’t this be a nice juicy area for a real Supreme Court to stand up and extend Amos to protect the Salvation Army? Sadly…not until a few justices retire and more constitutional one’s appointed I’m afraid…

  45. Nate Oman
    March 2, 2004 at 2:42 pm

    Lyle: I don’t think that Amos applies. It simply holds that statutory exemptions do not violate the establishment clause. This is a far cry from saying that such exemptions are constitutionally required.

  46. March 2, 2004 at 2:49 pm


    As I noted, I can see how their position may be viewed by some as politically expedient, I was simply countering such views. Also, I did not claim that all homosexuals are pedophiles, nor did I intend to offend. I do believe, however, based on the report on the Catholic abuse scandal and on other reports that I have read that homosexual men do engage in sexual conduct with minors to a greater degree than heterosexuals. This is a simple fact born out by statistical evidence. Never mind the countless anectdotal and statistical evidence that many homosexual men were abused by older men or boys when they were young. Also, I realize that the Scouts did not use this as an excuse, and perhaps it is not a valid justification because of the stealth pedophile issue you designate. (Even if it were a consideration there is no way they would admit it, as the media would attack them even more than it currently does.) However, I do think that just like the Scouts would not put a female scout leader over adolescent boys, it is wise not to put openly homosexual individuals over them either, even if I were to agree with you that homosexuals have no greater propensity to abuse young men than heterosexuals.

  47. March 2, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    Lyle, Nate is right on in his statement with respect to the applicability of Amos. In light of current free exercise jurisprudence, I do not know if the Salvation Army could win by arguing a right to participate on its own terms. My comments about what “right” the Salvation Army should have were more directed to the what I view as a preferred social policy allowing for a religious accomodation for organizations to be able to participate in participating in social welfare programs. (Note that my overall preferred approach would be the elimination of this problem by reducing taxes and ineffective government welfare programs and allowing charities to do the work without government money.)

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