ACRU

Warren Cole Smith: Scout’s Honor

On July, 2010 Warren Cole Smith wrote an article appearing on WorldMag.com.

In northern New Mexico, The Boy Scouts of America own the largest youth camp in the world. Philmont Scout Ranch covers 137,000 acres in the Sangre de Cristo — the “blood of Christ” — Mountains. Every day this summer, approximately 300 Scouts, Explorers, and their leaders will arrive at Philmont — a total of more than 18,000 will complete a 12-day Philmont trek this summer, hiking at least 50 miles over mountains that reach up to 12,000 feet.

And there are that many more on a waiting list. It has been that way for 10 years. “We’ve never been stronger,” said Philmont’s Director of Program Mark Anderson.

Many organizations that celebrate such values as “duty to God and country” — words from the Scout oath — have either fallen on hard times or have abandoned these values in a quixotic effort to stay relevant. The Girl Scouts, for example, no longer requires members to believe in God, and it allows openly gay leaders.

The Boy Scouts, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, will have none of that. Atheists have sued the Scouts so they can be members without having to pledge duty to God, but the Scouts have defended themselves vigorously — and successfully — in the courts. In the 1990s, James Dale, an openly gay man, wanted to be a Scout leader and sued for the privilege. The case went to the Supreme Court in 2000. The Boy Scouts won — but barely: the decision was 5-4.

Though the Scouts have won virtually every case brought against them by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others, these battles have not been without their costs, which over several decades have amounted to tens of millions of dollars in legal fees. Robert Knight is an Eagle Scout, a senior writer with Coral Ridge Ministries, and a senior fellow with the American Civil Rights Union, a group that considers itself the conservative counterweight to the ACLU. The ACRU filed amicus briefs in all of the cases the ACLU has brought against the Scouts. Knight said, “The ACLU is trying to peck the Scouts to death, and even when they don’t win, they generate controversy and they intimidate.” Knight said that in some parts of the country the United Way no longer funds the Boy Scouts, because of the controversy the lawsuits have generated.

But they have also earned the Boy Scouts the admiration of social conservatives and many others because, Knight said, “The Boy Scouts make it clear where moral authority comes from. From God. That’s controversial today, but most Americans still believe it’s true.”