Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Boy Scouts, Religious Intolerance, and The ACLU's War on Scouting


A BSA Religious Award for Jewish Scouters

Ralph Kostant is at it again, this time with a unique perspective on the Boy Scouts and the recent National Scout Jamboree:
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As is well-known, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have become a favorite punching bag of the secular Left in America. The ACLU and allied organizations have done their best to deprive the Scouts of the use of public property. They accuse the Scouts of intolerance, because Scouting, in the words of the Boy Scout Oath, commits Scouts to “do my duty to God and my country,” and to be “morally straight.”

Let’s look more closely at that charge of intolerance. There are a number of Scout Troops sponsored by Orthodox Jewish organizations; a handful, not many. It is likely that such Scouts, who observe the kosher dietary laws, represented at most a few hundred of the some 75,000 Scouts and Scout leaders who attended the Jamboree that recently concluded at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. BSA made special elaborate and probably costly arrangements to assure that those relatively few religiously observant Jewish Scouts had food that satisfied the most stringent interpretations of the Jewish dietary laws.

Like the Hedgehog, my friend Tom Greiff is a Boy Scout leader. He recently returned from the Jamboree, which he attended in the company of Scouts from the troop sponsored by my synagogue, Shaarey Zedek Congregation of North Hollywood, Troop 613 (so named because in traditional Jewish belief, the Torah contains 613 divinely ordained commandments, or mitzvot). One of Tom’s assigned responsibilities at the Jamboree was to receive shipments of kosher food as the trucks transporting it arrived at Fort A.P. Hill.

BSA had arranged for the provision of kosher food at the Jamboree to be supervised by Star-K, one of the nation’s most respected kosher supervision organizations, based in Baltimore, Maryland. The trucks that delivered the food from Baltimore contained shipments of both kosher products for the religiously observant Jewish Scouts and packages of non-kosher food for the rest of the Jamboree participants. In addition to the lock put on the truck loading doors by the shipping company, to prevent theft; a Star-K rabbi in Baltimore added his own seal on the truck doors, to guarantee that there had been no tampering with the kosher products on board. BSA agreed to a Star-K request that when the trucks arrived at the Jamboree the Star-K seal would only be broken by the Star-K supervising rabbi in attendance at the Jamboree—this even though the trucks in question contained food for everyone, not just the religiously observant Scouts. All that fuss, in order to accommodate the religious needs of a tiny, tiny percentage of the Scouts attending the Jamboree.

How is that for religious intolerance? As we Jews say, “Yesher coack [well done], BSA; kol hak’vod l’chah [all honor to you]!”

Ralph B. Kostant

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Based on personal experience I can confirm that there is no more accommodating organization than the BSA regarding the needs of its religious chartered organizations. For example, every residential Scout camp in existence starts its week-long summer camp on Sunday, but troops sponsored by my church do not travel on Sundays. Our local Scout council, the Western Los Angeles County Council, has bent over backwards to accommodate our desires. Among other things, the Council has asked camp staffers to vary their days off, and has kept the camp open on "off" hours on Saturday afternoons, all so our boys could arrive one day early, on Saturday, to avoid violating their religious tenets. I could go on and on listing similar examples. All this behavior by the BSA is in keeping with the organization's mission:

The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
As Ralph notes, in the Scout Oath the boy promises to do his "duty to God" and to keep himself "morally straight;" in the Scout Law he acknowledges that he must be "reverent."

Those are the values the ACLU finds so troubling. It is this organization that the ACLU and others would like to see destroyed if the Scouts do not relent and lower their standards of morality and religious observance for its voluntary members. It doesn't appear that the ACLU will give up its war on the Scouts anytime soon. I think that war is a long ways from being decided, however, and the ACLU will win only over the dead bodies of an awful lot of Americans-- speaking metaphorically, of course.

UPDATE: By happy coincidence Scott Johnson of Power Line has written an article in today's Daily Standard on the very subject of the ACLU's attacks on the Boy Scouts, "The ACLU's Thirty Years War." It's required reading for anyone interested in today's culture wars.

A few other Hedgehog Blog posts on the Boy Scouts and the ACLU:

The National Scout Jamboree: Why This Matters

Los Angeles National Cemetery, Memorial Day Weekend 2005

The San Diego Boy Scouts Controversy

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