Scouts Will Be Scouts

Who hasn't heard about the controversies over the Boy Scouts in recent months? This quintessential American institution is under fire for daring to be what it has always been: a place where boys can learn commitment to personal excellence, community service, and faith. But for the modern mindset, that isn't good enough any more. The Boy Scouts doesn't admit girls? Must be sexist. It doesn't admit homosexuals? Must be homophobic. The scout pledge refers to God? How bigoted and intolerant. With such a catalog of sins, the Boy Scouts has become fair game for folks who want to squeeze the organization into a politically correct mold. Recently the Boy Scouts story has taken a new twist: One of the organization's most hostile opponents has just been nominated to a high post in the Clinton administration. Roberta Achtenberg, a lawyer and lesbian activist, was picked to be an assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Achtenberg lives in San Francisco with another woman; together they're raising a 7-year-old son. She's a founder of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and has been a legal activist for so-called "alternative families," especially lesbian parenthood. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that Achtenberg has spearheaded the assault on the Boy Scouts in San Francisco. Two years ago, she talked the Bay Area United Way into cutting off funding to the Scouts. She has persuaded the San Francisco school board to prohibit scouts from meeting in schools. And currently she's leading a fight to expel them from all public facilities. Does it matter that the Boy Scouts are a private organization, with a constitutional right to freedom of association? Apparently not. Even though the Boy Scouts receive no public money, Achtenberg insists that they've become a "public" institution, and are legally required to admit homosexuals under San Francisco's gay rights ordinance. The Boy Scout saga illustrates the all-encompassing nature of the culture war raging in America—a conflict between two visions of truth. One vision might be called traditional. Its basic assumption is that truth and virtue are objective and transcendent. We don't choose what is true or false, right or wrong; we submit to a higher truth. The other vision vying for cultural dominance could be called progressive. Its basic assumption is that human beings choose their own truth, create their own values. The only real virtue is tolerance for individual choice. This is a conflict that will leave no part of society untouched—and it's the progressives who are on the offensive. In churches, in schools, in medicine and law, progressives are seeking to break down orthodoxies and enshrine their own doctrines of personal choice. The Boy Scouts controversy is one skirmish in this broader culture war. And Achtenberg has been one of the generals. You might want to call your Senator and ask what he or she plans to do about the Achtenberg nomination. Make it clear that a vote for her confirmation is a declaration of war on the Boy Scouts. And on everyone else who holds to what used to be considered basic American values.


Chuck Colson


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