Institute on Religion and Democracy
August 11, 1999 - Steve Rempe:
The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) expressed thanks to church agencies that have defended the Boy Scouts against court challenges to the Scouts' insistence that the boys and their leaders should be "morally straight."
On August 4, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the Boy Scouts have no legal right to exclude homosexual Scout leaders. But the scouting ministries of the Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Mormon Churches continue to support the policy of the Boy Scouts, who will appeal their case to the Supreme Court.
"We commend these church groups not only for defending traditional Christian beliefs regarding sexuality, but also for defending the freedom of a private association like the Scouts in the face of judicial coercion," said Mark Tooley, who directs the IRD's United Methodist committee. The Scouts' longstanding conviction that homosexual practice is not "morally straight" under Scout law was dismissed by the New Jersey court as "based on little more than prejudice."
"The case should concern all Americans who value First Amendment protections of free speech, religious liberty, and freedom of association," Tooley said. "Should homosexual activists be allowed to judicially compel the Scouts, and their church sponsors, into accepting their ideology?" he asked.
The National Catholic Committee on Scouting, the United Methodist General Commission on United Methodist Men, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod have all signed an amicus brief on behalf of the Boy Scouts' case. Mormon churches are the largest sponsor of Scout units, while United Methodists sponsor more individual Scouts.
Currently 62 percent of all Scout units in America are sponsored by churches, two thirds of them by the churches listed above. These churches, along with most of America's religious denominations, all have official policies that preclude the ordination of practicing homosexuals into their clergy ranks.
In their amicus brief, the four endorsing church groups recall the Constitution's First Amendment guarantees that "social/religious movements and organizations like Scouting have an absolute right to advocate their ideals through messengers of their own choosing." Scouting's close association with churches "raises additional concerns about the inevitable entanglement of the state with religion." Many Scout leaders are, in fact, selected by clergy of sponsoring churches.
According to the amicus brief, Boy Scouts believe "the good of sexual intimacy [for men] is inextricably bound to being an honorable husband and loving father." But it more strongly presses the point that the ultimate meaning of Scouting's creeds is not for the government to decide: "It is a fundamental First Amendment law that government cannot dictate political and social orthodoxy."
"All Americans who believe in the First Amendment to the Constitution should be able to defend the Boy Scouts in this vital case," Tooley concluded.