Creative Destruction

August 22, 2006

Philly Boy Scouts Threatened With Eviction Over Anti-Gay Policy

Filed under: LGBT Issues — Ampersand @ 9:15 pm

This 2003 post, about the short-lived decision of the Philadelphia Boy Scouts to buck the national Boy Scouts leadership by refusing to discriminate against gay Scouts, has recently come up in comments. Which led me to check out what’s going on with the Philly Boy Scouts currently:

Philly May Oust Scouts Over Anti-Gay Policy
by The Associated Press

July 23, 2006

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) The city said it will evict a Boy Scout council from its publicly owned headquarters or make the group pay a fair rent price unless it changes its policy on gays.

The Boy Scouts’ Cradle of Liberty Council, the country’s third-largest, has been battling with the city for more than three years over the policy, which like the national Scouts organization forbids gays from being leaders.

City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. wrote a letter to William T. Dwyer III, president of the Cradle of Liberty Council, stating that the council’s “discriminatory policies” violate city policy and law, and that city officials have not been assured the group will not discriminate.

Unless the city gets a “fair-market rent agreement,” the council will be evicted, the letter says.

The group has made its headquarters on a half-acre owned by the city in the upscale Philadelphia Art Museum area since 1928, when the city council voted to allow the Scouts to use the property rent-free “in perpetuity.” The Scouts pay for building upkeep.

The Boy Scouts have said they’re going to take the city to court to protect their sacred Constitutional right to rent-free space in a choice downtown location. If so, they won’t be the only Scout troop suing for a hand-out.

If Philly does evict the Scouts, the city might lose $62 million in Federal grant money. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The federal Support Our Scouts Act of 2005 allows the Department of Housing and Urban Development to deny funds to any state or local government that discriminates against or denies Boy Scouts access to facilities equal to those provided to other groups. The city received more than $62 million in HUD funds last year.

Meanwhile, back in May, two boys were kicked out of a Louisiana Boy Scout troop for being Wiccans.

31 Comments »

  1. The BSA provides a service that no one else does for a group of people that frankly our society could not care less about.
    To date, I have yet to hear any justifiable reason for the BSA’s policy. Their most common “reason” is that gay men will rape boys, but that has less basis in fact and reality than the claim that chipmunks dance and sing. I fail to see why these men and boys—many of whom were praised before they came out or were discovered to be gay—cannot participate.

    That said, I think this is a case where trying to strong-arm change might result in an even worse situation. Many people who might otherwise have little problem with the change could be deterred if it looks like gay/liberal organizations are just beating up on the BSA.

    Comment by toysoldier — August 22, 2006 @ 11:00 pm | Reply

  2. If you believe that there is no moral difference between heterosexual conduct and homosexual conduct, then there is no justifiable reason for the policy.

    If you believe that there is a difference (to the disfavor of homosexuality), then it is trivial to articulate the specifics of a particular anti-homosexual point of view. Such policies are generally self-evident in their justification. (“We don’t like gays. Therefore, no gays.”)

    Comment by Robert — August 22, 2006 @ 11:40 pm | Reply

  3. With this issue, the BSA is in a quandry. Society as a whole, including those who might want their children to become Scouts, is becoming more accepting of homosexuality. Yet places of worship, regardless of creed, are the most prominent home site for troop meetings. (Schools come in as a distant second.)

    For a practical reason, to remove the “heterosexual only” sign from the Scoutmaster’s door would risk a divide with those who give Scouting an actual physical home. And this is probably one of the factors in the equation, although chances are that no one in the main office will put it in those words.

    In fact, their responses to the entire argument seem to fall into rather convoluted territory. Unnecessarily, if you ask me. All the BSA needs to do is point at the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

    On my honor I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country
    and to obey the Scout Law;
    To help other people at all times;
    To keep myself physically strong,
    mentally awake, and morally straight.

    A Scout is:
    Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly,
    Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful,
    Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

    (And yes, as I typed that, my hand tried to rise into the salute. Once a Scout, always a Scout.)

    If you have a moral disagreement with homosexuality, how can you ask your Scouts to be “morally straight” when you break with your own moral codes? As Scouting is based on the moral codes of the Judeo-Christian traditions, how can you ask your Scouts to be “reverent” while violating the traditions the organization is based on?

    And then, after saying that, find a way to pay the rent at that extraordinarily expensive council headquarters they have. Or move to a less expensive part of town.

    Like the Benjamin Franklin Foundation. They might be willing to make a deal.

    Comment by Off Colfax — August 23, 2006 @ 1:33 am | Reply

  4. The BSA provides a service that no one else does for a group of people that frankly our society could not care less about.

    Is the BSA the only such organisation for boys?

    To date, I have yet to hear any justifiable reason for the BSA’s policy. Their most common “reason” is that gay men will rape boys, but that has less basis in fact and reality than the claim that chipmunks dance and sing.

    Let’s moderate that a little. It could be argued that homosexual men are more likely than heterosexual men to sexually abuse boys. “are more likely” is defensible, while “will” is not. also “sexually abuse” covers a wider range of abusive behaviours than “rape” or even “sexually assault”.

    (The same reasoning leads to the conclusion that heterosexual men should not lead groups of girls.)

    I would particularly appreciate Barry’s reply to the above argument.

    Comment by Daran — August 23, 2006 @ 6:54 am | Reply

  5. Is the BSA the only such organisation for boys?

    You are right. There are more, but the BSA and Big Brother are the only ones that comes to mind that focuses primarily on the boys’ needs.

    It could be argued that homosexual men are more likely than heterosexual men to sexually abuse boys.

    Actually, no it cannot. The overwhelming majority of men who sexually abuse boys are heterosexual. The attraction to boys does not automatically make them gay. This is particularly true since most of those men only have heterosexual adult relationships. That does not mean no gay men do it, just that they are less likely to. And given our society’s response to male sexuality and homosexual men, one would think that if gay men were the primary abusers of boys the statistics and studies would reflect that.

    The same reasoning leads to the conclusion that heterosexual men should not lead groups of girls.

    In that case, heterosexual women should not lead groups of boys either, but that is a separate issue.

    Comment by toysoldier — August 23, 2006 @ 10:24 am | Reply

  6. It could be argued that homosexual men are more likely than heterosexual men to sexually abuse boys.

    Let’s suppose for argument’s sake that this were true (although, as ToySoldier points out, this is not a given).

    Pulling some totally fictional numbers out of my… ear, let’s say that the chance of an openly gay man being a sexual abuser of boys is .0016%, while the chance of an openly hetero man being a sexual abuser of boys is .0004%.

    So, in these totally fictional numbers, gay men are four times as likely to be sexual abusers as straight men. And yet, because the large majority of men are straight, the majority of boys sexually abused by men will still be abused by straight men – so by refusing to hire openly gay men, we are preventing only a minority of incidents of sexual abuse in the Scouts. Furthermore, the vast majority of gay men we refuse to hire are not sexual abusers, and presumably we’re hurting our organization by shrinking the pool of potential hires.

    So, IF sexual abuse of boys in Scouting is a real problem (have any studies been done?), and not just a pretext for discrimination, I’d argue that a better solution is to try to institute policies that make it hard for sexual abusers (straight or gay) to sexually abuse boys.

    Requiring all Scout leaders, regardless of sexual orientation, to follow simple policies such as the ones described by Hugo in this post would do much more to protect boys from sexual abuse than keeping out open gays does.

    Comment by Ampersand — August 23, 2006 @ 11:15 am | Reply

  7. Scouting’s ban on gay leaders is not primarily predicated upon a desire to protect boys from sexual exploitation. It is predicated upon a rejection of homosexual behavior as being morally unacceptable, and a logical extension of that belief to say that people modeling these morally unacceptable behaviors cannot be role models and moral leaders for children.

    Comment by Robert — August 23, 2006 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  8. ToySoldier states, “To date, I have yet to hear any justifiable reason for the BSA’s policy. Their most common “reason” is that gay men will rape boys, but that has less basis in fact and reality than the claim that chipmunks dance and sing. I fail to see why these men and boys—many of whom were praised before they came out or were discovered to be gay—cannot participate.”

    According to the BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA et al. v. DALE 2000 (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=530&page=640)lawsuit that allows BSA to keep it’s core beliefs intact, “The values the Boy Scouts seeks to instill are “based on” those listed in the Scout Oath and Law. App. 184. The Boy Scouts explains that the Scout Oath and Law provide “a positive moral code for living; they are a list of `do’s’ rather than `don’ts.’ ” Brief for Petitioners 3. 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.”

    Obviously, the Scout Oath and Law do not expressly mention sexuality or sexual orientation. See supra, at 6-7. And the terms “morally straight” and “clean” are by no means self-defining. Different people would attribute to those terms very different meanings. For example, some people may believe that engaging in homosexual conduct is not at odds with being “morally straight” and “clean.” And others may believe that engaging in homosexual conduct is contrary to being “morally straight” and “clean.” The Boy Scouts says it falls within the latter category.”

    Nowhere in the suit citing can the words “rape” or “molest” be found.

    Please, if you can’t keep your lifestyle straight, at least get your facts staight.

    Comment by Tommy D. — August 23, 2006 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

  9. Toysoldier:

    You are right. There are more, but the BSA and Big Brother are the only ones that comes to mind that focuses primarily on the boys’ needs.

    I’m not familiar with “Big Brother” as an organisation for boys. Here in the UK, we have the Scouts, (and their junior section, the Cubs), and the Boys Brigade, which I don’t know much about. My impression is that both of these operate much like the Scouts in the US.

    What other boys’ organisations are there, and in what way do these others fail to “focus primarily on the boys’ needs”?

    Actually, no it cannot. The overwhelming majority of men who sexually abuse boys are heterosexual.

    The cite stands for the proposition that the overwhelming majority (86%) of abusers of males are men. It does not support the statement that the overwhelming majority of them are heterosexual, only that that a majority are. Since a large majority of men are heterosexual, this is entirely consistent with homosexuals posing a greater individual risk.

    The attraction to boys does not automatically make them gay.

    The opportunistic abuse of boys does not automatically mean that the abuser is gay. I would have thought sexual attraction to boys makes a person gay (or bisexual) by definition.

    This is particularly true since most of those men only have heterosexual adult relationships. That does not mean no gay men do it, just that they are less likely to.

    As I said above, you have not established this.

    The same reasoning leads to the conclusion that heterosexual men should not lead groups of girls.

    In that case, heterosexual women should not lead groups of boys either, but that is a separate issue.

    Does not follow: Women are, according to the statistics you cited, far less likely to abuse than men, and therefore safer even when heterosexual. But as you said, this is a separate issue.

    Comment by Daran — August 23, 2006 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

  10. Ampersand:

    Pulling some totally fictional numbers out of my… ear, let’s say that the chance of an openly gay man being a sexual abuser of boys is .0016%, while the chance of an openly hetero man being a sexual abuser of boys is .0004%.

    So, in these totally fictional numbers, gay men are four times as likely to be sexual abusers as straight men. And yet, because the large majority of men are straight, the majority of boys sexually abused by men will still be abused by straight men

    If 20% of men are gay and 80% het (ignoring the other possibilities) then the two groups will commit the same amount of abuse.

    - so by refusing to hire openly gay men, we are preventing only a minority of incidents of sexual abuse in the Scouts. Furthermore, the vast majority of gay men we refuse to hire are not sexual abusers, and presumably we’re hurting our organization by shrinking the pool of potential hires.

    Going by the assumed figures, if the number of gay but otherwise eligable potential hires exceeds 20%, then they pose the majority of the sexual abuse risk to boys. If it’s less than 20% then there’s a correspondingly small impact upon the pool of potential hires.

    Either way, the impact upon the sexual abuse greatly exceeds that upon the pool of hires.

    So, IF sexual abuse of boys in Scouting is a real problem (have any studies been done?), and not just a pretext for discrimination, I’d argue that a better solution is to try to institute policies that make it hard for sexual abusers (straight or gay) to sexually abuse boys.

    It doesn’t appear to be even a pretext. (The justifications appear to be as suggested by Robert and Tommy D.)

    Requiring all Scout leaders, regardless of sexual orientation, to follow simple policies such as the ones described by Hugo in this post would do much more to protect boys from sexual abuse than keeping out open gays does.

    Clearly best practice policies should be implemented, but it’s not an either/or choice.

    Assuming that studies had been done revealing a significant amount of abuse in the Scounts, despite best practice policies being in place, and assuming that gays do really pose a significantly greater risk than hets, would you not then agree that barring gays would be justified. If not, why not? What other considerations should apply? If so, then just how significant would the risk have to be to justify such a measure?

    Comment by Daran — August 23, 2006 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

  11. The Wiccan thing is particularly odd. When I was in the BSA (mostly in the 80s), there was a great emphasis on how any religion would count, even, e.g. Hindus, who, like Wiccans, are not monotheistic.

    Comment by ohwilleke — August 23, 2006 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

  12. Also worth noting that the United Methodist Church in my neighborhood (Washington Park in Denver, Colorado) evicted the local Boy Scout Troop because of its discrimination against gays. Other Denver churches have done the same thing.

    The issue is not that churches host scouts, therefore, it must become anti-gay. The real issue is that sponsoring churches have become much more disproportionately fundamentalist, and opposing gay rights have become more important in those churches.

    Comment by ohwilleke — August 23, 2006 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

  13. ohwilleke write:

    The issue is not that churches host scouts, therefore, it must become anti-gay. The real issue is that sponsoring churches have become much more disproportionately fundamentalist, and opposing gay rights have become more important in those churches.

    I’m not following this logic. Fundamentalist churches oppose gays; the BSA opposes gays. But some churches kick out the scout troops because of the BSA’s (the parent organization) opposition to gays? It would seem to me they’re in, er, fundamental agreement.

    Comment by Brutus — August 23, 2006 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

  14. Tommy D. writes:

    Nowhere in the suit citing can the words “rape” or “molest” be found.

    Please, if you can’t keep your lifestyle straight, at least get your facts straight.

    I did not claim that such statements were in the suit, only that those are reasons commonly given. I assure you I would not slander the BSA. There is evidence that some people involved with the BSA agree with those claims.

    Comment by toysoldier — August 23, 2006 @ 5:54 pm | Reply

  15. Daran writes:

    The cite stands for the proposition that the overwhelming majority (86%) of abusers of males are men.

    The line reads: Despite popular belief that only gay men would sexually assault men or boys, most male perpetrators identify themselves as heterosexuals and often have consensual sexual relationships with women. Even if straight males are not the overwhelming majority, which I will concede, there is no evidence to support the claim that homosexuals pose a greater individual risk.

    The opportunistic abuse of boys does not automatically mean that the abuser is gay. I would have thought sexual attraction to boys makes a person gay (or bisexual) by definition.

    Sexual attraction to boys, i.e. non-adult males, makes a person a pedophile by definition. One could perhaps break it down further by age groups and include nepiophilia and ephebophilia. Again, the act may be homosexual in nature, but that does not mean the abuser is gay because his or her primary sexual attraction may not be members of the same-sex.

    Are you familiar with any studies demonstrating that boys face a greater risk from gay men than straight men? All the studies I am familiar with states the opposite.

    Women are, according to the statistics you cited, far less likely to abuse than men, and therefore safer even when heterosexual.

    Current statistics state that nearly 40% of the sexual abusers of boys are female, so one would be hard press to claim it is “safer” to be with women.

    Comment by toysoldier — August 23, 2006 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

  16. Robert writes:

    Scouting’s ban on gay leaders is not primarily predicated upon a desire to protect boys from sexual exploitation. It is predicated upon a rejection of homosexual behavior as being morally unacceptable, and a logical extension of that belief to say that people modeling these morally unacceptable behaviors cannot be role models and moral leaders for children.

    Not to insult anyone, but is this not the same set of beliefs that not too long ago considered interracial marriage and the resulting children immoral? I understand that it is a logical extension of their beliefs (not that the beliefs in and of themselves are logical), but those beliefs have at times changed. If the beliefs are malleable, then why not adjust them again? My greatest points of confusion are what specifically makes the attraction to other males immoral (outside of the “it’s God’s law” argument) and particularly what makes a gay child so immoral that he can no longer be a scout even if he has been an exemplary scout before realizing his sexual identity.

    Comment by toysoldier — August 23, 2006 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

  17. Daran wrote:

    If 20% of men are gay and 80% het (ignoring the other possibilities) then the two groups will commit the same amount of abuse.

    Yes, but the studies I’ve seen of the US indicate that around 2% of men are gay, not 20%. So your 20% figure seems, to put it mildly, implausible; and all your arguments that stem from the 20% figure don’t hold water.

    Clearly best practice policies should be implemented, but it’s not an either/or choice.

    Outright bigotry against homosexuals is a bad thing in and of itself, and by modeling such bigotry the Boy Scouts are setting a terrible example for the children they teach, and encouraging abuse of gay youth.

    That might be a necessary sacrifice to make, if bigotry against out gay men was the only way to prevent sexual abuse of boys. But, clearly, it is not; there are far more effective ways available to protect boys.

    Assuming that studies had been done revealing a significant amount of abuse in the Scounts, despite best practice policies being in place, and assuming that gays do really pose a significantly greater risk than hets, would you not then agree that barring gays would be justified.

    If best practices are unable to prevent a significant amount of sexual abuse by adult men in the Scouts, the smart thing to do is to shut the Scouts down entirely. The effect of the policy you suggest would be to protect only some boys from being molested; don’t the boys being molested by straight men deserve protection too?

    In practice, I don’t think there’s any evidence that out gay men present a special danger in Scouting. I’d prefer not to continue discussing a hypothetical line of reasoning that assumes that the most vicious anti-gay stereotypes are true.

    Comment by Ampersand — August 24, 2006 @ 4:49 am | Reply

  18. I would have thought sexual attraction to boys makes a person gay (or bisexual) by definition.

    Kind of funny phrasing there. What if the person was female?

    That aside, there are many different definitions of gay. For the purposes of examining the Boy Scout’s policy of excluding self-identified gay men, however, the relevant question is not “are gay men more dangerous than straight men,” but “are self-identified gay men more dangerous than all other men?”

    Comment by Ampersand — August 24, 2006 @ 4:55 am | Reply

  19. ToySoldier:

    Sexual attraction to boys, i.e. non-adult males, makes a person a pedophile by definition. One could perhaps break it down further by age groups and include nepiophilia and ephebophilia. Again, the act may be homosexual in nature, but that does not mean the abuser is gay because his or her primary sexual attraction may not be members of the same-sex.

    As I understand these terms, “paedophilia” means sexual attraction towards prepubescent children, “nepiophilia” towards very young children (toddlers and under), and “ephebophilia” and “hebephilia” toward adolescents. I’m not aware of a term refering to sexual attraction toward adults.

    Thus paedophilia includes nepiophilia, but not ephebophilia.

    “Heterosexuality” and “homosexuality” refer to sexual attraction exclusively toward members of the opposite and the same sex respectively. Sexual attraction toward both is “bisexuality”. I do not understand any of the other terms as applying exclusively, i.e., as not applying merely because a person’s primary sexual orientation is otherwise.

    Are you familiar with any studies demonstrating that boys face a greater risk from gay men than straight men? All the studies I am familiar with states the opposite.

    I’m not aware of any such studies. Feel free to cite the ones you know of.

    Comment by Daran — August 24, 2006 @ 5:18 am | Reply

  20. Ampersand:

    I would have thought sexual attraction to boys makes a person gay (or bisexual) by definition.

    Kind of funny phrasing there. What if the person was female?

    Mea Culpa.

    That aside, there are many different definitions of gay. For the purposes of examining the Boy Scout’s policy of excluding self-identified gay men, however, the relevant question is not “are gay men more dangerous than straight men,” but “are self-identified gay men more dangerous than all other men?”

    Or those outed as being gay, to whom I would presume the policy also applies.

    Comment by Daran — August 24, 2006 @ 5:44 am | Reply

  21. Ampersand:

    If 20% of men are gay and 80% het (ignoring the other possibilities) then the two groups will commit the same amount of abuse.

    Yes, but the studies I’ve seen of the US indicate that around 2% of men are gay, not 20%. So your 20% figure seems, to put it mildly, implausible; and all your arguments that stem from the 20% figure don’t hold water.

    I was under the impression that the figure was much higher.

    This undermines your point about the pool of potential hires being reduced to any significant degree.

    If best practices are unable to prevent a significant amount of sexual abuse by adult men in the Scouts, the smart thing to do is to shut the Scouts down entirely.

    All such decisions should be made on a cost/benefit basis. If the Scouts deliver considerable benefits to the boys they serve, then the cost of shutting them down would be the loss of that benefit. If in comparison, the cost of implementing a ‘no gays’ policy is much less, then the benefit required to justify that policy is similarly reduced.

    The effect of the policy you suggest would be to protect only some boys from being molested; don’t the boys being molested by straight men deserve protection too?

    Of course they do. However I don’t believe you would really argue that if we cannot protect all, then we should not protect some.

    In practice, I don’t think there’s any evidence that out gay men present a special danger in Scouting. I’d prefer not to continue discussing a hypothetical line of reasoning that assumes that the most vicious anti-gay stereotypes are true.

    In my defence, the assumption was that gay men are more likely to abuse boys, and correspondingly less likely to abuse girls, which would also seem to be a reasonable belief in the absence of evidence to the contrary. I do not think this is a “vicious anti-gay stereotypes”. I have not suggested that gays are more likely to abuse children, or that homosexual abuse is worse than hetersexual abuse.

    However, I have been playing devil’s advocate. I do not believe that gays should be excluded from such activities, but I wanted to get you to articulate your objections to the policy and rational more clearly, which you have done. If I may sumarise:

    There’s no evidence that gay men are more likely than het men to abuse boys.
    There’s no evidence that there are significant levels of abuse within the scouts, or that significant levels of abuse would remain with best practices implemented.
    “Outright bigotry against homosexuals is a bad thing in and of itself, and by modeling such bigotry the Boy Scouts are setting a terrible example for the children they teach, and encouraging abuse of gay youth.”

    These argument I find cogent. Your remaining arguments less so:

    “we are preventing only a minority of incidents of sexual abuse in the Scouts.” – by hypothesis: 6%. Presumably you regard this to be an insufficient saving.
    “the vast majority of gay men we refuse to hire are not sexual abusers” – The vast majority of 2% is less than 2% of candidates
    “presumably we’re hurting our organization by shrinking the pool of potential hires.” by 2%
    There are other things that could be done.
    It doesn’t protect against heterosexual abusers.

    Have I stated your position correctly?

    Comment by Daran — August 24, 2006 @ 7:02 am | Reply

  22. Oh, and there’s one other argument you could have made but didn’t. There are certain benefits that gays sine qua non can bring to a boys organisation: that of role model for gay boys.

    Comment by Daran — August 24, 2006 @ 7:54 am | Reply

  23. I once gave Aikido classes in a Dojo. Aikido, is a martial arts specially misadapted to kids, it works based on wrist dynamics and at a young age, joints are so flexible that this martial art is really not useful. One of the teachers, an older gentleman still living with his mother insisted on giving classes to kids. He was actually very serious about it. I told him to take extra steps to protect himself from any claim of impropriety, I suggest he never enter the locker rooms, he got parents involved on the floor, made sure he was never lelf alone with the kids. I actually feared more for the kids.

    This was quite troublesome. I did not know what to do and I could not raise the issue without fear of damaging this man’s reputation. I was puzzled by the fact that parents were not taking basic precautions and making sure their kid was not placed in situations where abuse was possible.

    All of this to say that while I strongly dissagree with any anti-gay discrimination, I think the measure is certainly helpful to some extent. I think having a “2 scout master policy” would be wiser to make sure nothing ever happens.

    Comment by Vilon — August 24, 2006 @ 10:50 am | Reply

  24. Copying and expanding my comment from Alas.

    How is going to court to insist that the government follow the laws it passed asking for a hand-out? If I bought a bond, and the government refused to pay it because it disliked my politics, wouldn’t that be illegal?

    This case seems to me similar.

    Similarly with the Berkeley Sea Scouts. They paid for a free berth in perpetuity by providing some of the building materials for the marina.

    It seems to me that even good goals, like not subsidizing discrimination, should not allow the government to not provide services which it has agreed to provide. The government can’t legitimately not provide police protection to campaigners against police abuse. It can’t legitimately deny public schooling to the children of voucher advocates. And it seems to me that it can’t deny paid-for facilities (even if the payment occurred in the past) to organizations that paid for them, and were given the right to use them because they did so.

    Comment by SamChevre — August 24, 2006 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

  25. SamChevre: and if fulfilling the contract would mean breaking the law? Funding discrimination seems legally dubious, at best.

    Comment by hf — August 25, 2006 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

  26. RE: groups for boys — first, are you looking at only national groups, or would you include local groups? As for national, there’s certainly the Boy Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Club (yes, the latter 2 are not solely directed at boys, as they have added services to girls over the last couple of decades — but really, that’s not much different than the saying the Boy Scouts isn’t directed at boys because they have the Girl Scouts). If you go local, my guess is that there are quite a few additional groups (unless, perhaps, you live in a very poor and or, in some cases, very rural town). Often, these groups are geared towards boys in particular racial/ethnic groups, particular relgious groups, or particular age groups. But, if I were to include all of those various groups, there’d be well over 100 various groups for boys in this city — and this is a mid-sized city.

    Vilon — I’m confused. Why were you scared for the kids? Did this man give you a particular reason to be fearful on their behalf? If so, then you were irresponsible for not doing something about it. But, from your post, it seems more like you just had suspisions based on assumptions made about this man. Seems you are assuming he’s gay — you certainly didn’t indicate that he was an openly gay man, simply said he was an “older gentleman still living with his mother.” Is that supposed to be proof, somehow, that he is gay? I mean, sure, he could be gay and live with his mother — but one does not automatically lead to the other.

    Also, you still need to back up your assumption that gay men are more likely to be dangerous to boys than straight men.

    Comment by bean — August 28, 2006 @ 10:56 pm | Reply

  27. Bean is 100% correct about the diversity of groups for boys, and girls too. That diversity is one argument in favor of a broadly-construed right to freely associate in one’s personal life; people ought to get to (mutually) choose who they want to hang out with in their own free time, in my view. You can join any boy’s or girl’s club that will have you; you can found your own if none will. Go nuts; this is America. Godspeed, and the rest of the world will strive not to hinder you in your joy.

    Comment by Robert — August 29, 2006 @ 12:33 am | Reply

  28. - As Robert says, yeah for freedom of association. Private actors are entitled to discriminate. IF you define the BSA as a private club, then I don’t see a big legal problem with their policies. If they choose to weigh in on questions of homosexuality, go ahead.

    But once you say that you pick scoutmasters on the basis of them being role models, you’re entering pretty slippery territory. Shall we now conclude that every aspect of every scoutmaster’s personal life is BSA-approved?

    Moreover, now that the BSA is in the business of opining on sexuality, I’d like to know the official BSA position on heterosexuality. Let’s put up big banners in front of BSA events: “EXTRA-MARITAL SEX IS FINE WITH US, SO LONG AS IT INVOLVES PENISES AND VAGINAS.” Or maybe “THE UNIFORM: OUR PLEDGE OF VIRGINITY.” Indeed, let’s have the scouts recite one of these positions at every meeting, just after the Pledge. That aught to help recruitment!

    – But beyond what Robert says, boo for government discrimination on the basis of religion. Congress has passed laws granting unique benefits to the BSA, and the BSA discriminates on the basis of people who are “reverend,” as defined by the BSA. Conceptually, either the BSA is not a private actor and therefore not entitled to discriminate, or these laws should be reversed for violating the Establishment Clause.

    – The question of government honoring contracts is legally challenging. Conceptually, to the extent that a contract binds the discretion of legislators in the future, it acts as a limit on representative democracy. Thus, I believe that people can sue the US federal government only to the extent that it agrees to make itself receptive to liability (although the feds may not be able to shield themselves from constitutional claims). Courts will not otherwise entertain suits against the feds. I suspect states have similar immunity.

    Comment by nobody.really — August 29, 2006 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

  29. Conceptually, either the BSA is not a private actor and therefore not entitled to discriminate, or these laws should be reversed for violating the Establishment Clause.

    Or, other private entities seeking similar state beneficence should be granted it.

    I don’t see anything wrong with the discriminatory-BSA having (say) privileged access to a harbor facility, as long as similar treatment is afforded to the Queer Scouts or whomever. It isn’t a question of the benefits – its a question of whether similar deals are available to non-religious actors. If they are, then there’s no violation of the Establishment Clause in my view, since the state isn’t establishing anybody. It’s just supporting anyone who makes a credible request for support.

    Comment by Robert — August 29, 2006 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  30. So you’re advocating “separate but equal” port facilities for the Queer Scouts (sailing the Raging Queen)? And the adoption of the federal Support Our Every-Other-Organization Act of 2006 allowing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to deny funds to any state or local government that discriminates against or denies any organization access to facilities equal to those provided to other groups? And all the other perks that Congress has granted to the Boy Scouts?

    This might get around the discrimination issue, but I don’t know if it gets around the Establishment Clause issue. I don’t think Congress can build a mosque in praise of Allah with the proviso that it also burn a cross on its lawn every night to compensate. I think the only remedy for religious favoritism is refraining.

    Comment by nobody.really — August 29, 2006 @ 5:58 pm | Reply

  31. But “favoritism”, O Wise One, requires differential treatment. If you treat all entreating entities equitably and equally, then how can there be favoritism?

    Comment by Robert — August 29, 2006 @ 6:07 pm | Reply


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