Moar Boy Scouts Welfare Queenage

Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 600 (2000) is one of my top ten all time favorite U.S. Supreme Court cases. The Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that a New Jersey statute prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination violated the BSA’s First Amendment right of expressive association by forcing it to accept gays as scoutmasters. The result isn’t especially enthralling, but the method is revealing as hell. Chief Justice Rehnquist’s majority opinion is a superb example of how alleged “conservative” practitioners of “judicial restraint” will do damn near anything, up to and including violating the canons of judicial conduct, to reach a desired result. To see how it works, check out the majority opinion, then read Justice Stevens’ dissent to find out how the majority ignores, distorts and flat-out lies about the record evidence in the case.

Perhaps the most odious bit of nonsense regarding the Boy Scouts is the notion that they’re a purely private organization and for that reasons shouldn’t be subject to nondiscrimination laws applicable to public entities. In truth, the Boy Scouts have enjoyed and benefited from a lengthy, close and exceptionally profitable relationship with the federal government.

Chris Rodda reports on the latest Congressional give-away to the Boy Scouts here. The current bit of largess comes in the form of House Bill 5872 (pdf, 8 pages). The bill’s purpose is “[t]o require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the centennial of the Boy Scouts of America, and for other purposes.”

Commemorative coin issuance is hardly a big deal in and of itself. That’s been going on since 1892. The intriguing part is the “other purposes” statement. Just what are those “other purposes” anyway?

Check out Section 7 of the bill, which mandates that “[a]ll sales of coins issued under this Act shall include a surcharge of $10 per coin” and directs that the Secretary pay all surcharges collected to the National Boy Scouts of America Foundation. Rodda calculates that bill could result in a windfall of up to $3.5 million for the Boy Scouts.

The Boy Scouts themselves tout their status as a de facto religion here. A few highlights:

Q. Can an individual who states that he does not believe in God be a volunteer Scout leader or member?

A. No. The Scout Oath represents the basic values of Scouting, and it addresses the issue of “duty to God” before duty to country, others, and self.

. . .

Q. What allows the Boy Scouts of America to exclude atheists and agnostics from membership?

A. The Boy Scouts of America is a private membership group. As with any private organization, Boy Scouts’ retains the constitutional right to establish and maintain standards for membership. Anyone who supports the values of Scouting and meets these standards is welcome to join the organization.

Naturally, the Scouts’ focus on YHWH and the need to be “morally straight” dictates exclusion of gays as well as atheists and agnostics:

Q. Don’t Boy Scouts discriminate against gays and atheists?

A. Boy Scouts of America is one of the most diverse youth groups in the country, serving boys of every ethnicity, religion, and economic circumstance and having programs for older teens of both sexes. That Boy Scouts also has traditional values, like requiring youth to do their “duty to God” and be “morally straight” is nothing to be ashamed of and should not be controversial. No court case has ever held that Boy Scouts discriminates unlawfully, and it is unfortunate here that anyone would characterized Boy Scouts’ constitutionally protected right to hold traditional values as “discriminatory.” That is just name-calling.

Q. May an individual who openly declares himself to be a homosexual be a volunteer Scout leader?

A. No. The Boy Scouts of America is a private membership organization; leadership in Boy Scouting is a privilege and not a right. Boy Scouts believes that homosexual conduct is not compatible with the aims and purposes of Scouting and that a known or avowed homosexual does not present a desirable role model for the youth in the Scouting program. Boy Scouts will continue to select only those who meet Boy Scout standards and qualifications for membership.

The Scout are, of course, correct about their right to practice mindless troglodytic bigotry. I’m fine with that. I don’t want to make the Aryan Nation admit African-Americans or require the American Nazi Party to admit Jews either.

The problem lies in using the U.S. government as a fund raising tool for what amounts to an uberconservative church. Once again we harken back to the words of Justice Hugo Black, the strict constructionist’s strict constructionist:

The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between Church and State.”

Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 15-16 (1947).

You want the benefits associated with being a private organization? Fine and goddamn dandy. But don’t you fucking dare expect the rest of us to pay for it.

The unconstitutionality of this horseshit seems obvious, but you’d never be able to tell from the goings-on in Congress. H.R. 5872 sailed through the House of Representatives and passed on a vote of 403-8. On May 19 the bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Senate proceedings figure to be equally smooth.

So, then, the next time some piggish Boy Scout muckity muck starts blabbering about how being “morally straight” requires belief in God and keeping one’s weiner away from the No-No Boxes of other men, heap some Reaganesque derision on him. Call the prick a welfare queen. The term fits like the proverbial glove.

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  • illusory tenant  On May 22, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Read Justice Stevens’ dissent to find out how the majority ignores, distorts and flat-out lies about the record evidence in the case.

    Hear, hear. I’m with you on the Top Ten as well. I remember standing in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Golda Meir Library and reading it in the United States Reports. It was quite the eye-opener, alright.

  • Clutch  On May 23, 2008 at 6:10 am

    Do you suppose Kennedy was on speaking terms with Rehnquist? That dissent was damn close to “You’re a fucking liar, and too stupid to even be very good at it.”

  • Clutch  On May 23, 2008 at 6:11 am

    Duh. Kennedy. I mean Stevens.

    Too much Ted on CNN.

  • genghishitler  On May 23, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Do you suppose Kennedy was on speaking terms with Rehnquist? That dissent was damn close to “You’re a fucking liar, and too stupid to even be very good at it.”

    There’s no way of knowing for sure, but I like to think that Stevens considered Rehnquist a stupid and shameless political hack who was bereft of ethics and had no business deciding forcible entry and detainer cases for some rinky dink municipal court’s housing division, much less the cases that come to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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