I was sitting on the family room floor last week, finally trying to organize the boxes of random stuff I had brought home when I retired from the Portland Press Herald last October.

As I was sorting through folders of column clippings dating back to my first years as an editorial writer, (yes, clippings on real paper, from the days when “digital” meant “using your fingers”), one column slid out of a folder and fluttered to the floor.

I picked it up and my eye caught the words “Boy Scouts” in a headline. It was dated Dec. 28, 1992, and discussed complaints that the Boy Scouts were a reprehensible organization because they “discriminated” against homosexuals.

The odd thing is that a story on the front page that very day, almost 20 years after the column I was holding was printed, was about exactly the same issue.

And none of the arguments was new — except one.

The issue in 1992 was that the Portland branch of the United Way dropped the Boy Scouts from the groups it funded, because the Scouts, acting according to the same principles they acted on again last week, declined to accept “open, avowed” homosexuals as leaders or members.

As I wrote in that column, “The Scouts are, after all, what most people think of as the quintessential American organization, one which has done immeasurable good for uncountable numbers of boys over nearly a century. But I heard a caller on a radio talk show say the United Way’s decision was a ‘victory over hate’.”

Hate? How could that possibly be involved in trying to protect young boys, spiritually and emotionally as well as physically?

A dozen years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts have every right to determine the qualifications of their members and leaders. More than 60 percent of troops are sponsored by churches or other religious organizations, and there’s a good reason: Scouting is a faith-based movement.

Back to 1992: “The Boy Scouts are an entirely voluntary, private association pledged to uphold the Scout Oath: ‘On my honor, I promise to do my duty to God and my country; to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.’ Want to guess which two words reflect the ‘hate’ in Scouting?”

Columnist Rebecca Hagelin, writing last Sunday in The Washington Times, quoted Scout CEO Bob Mazzuca as explaining that parents, not some oversight group, drove the reaffirmation of the Scouts’ position: “The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisors, and at the appropriate time and within the right setting.”

Hagelin adds, “Unlike the public schools and ‘progressive’ youth organizations, the Boy Scouts organization understands that issues such as sex and marriage must be addressed within a moral context. And parents have a right to provide that context.”

As she points out, those demanding the Scouts change their position are really demanding the Scouts reject any respect for parents’ rights to oversee the upbringing of their children, and they want the Scouts to abandon the moral principles they have upheld since their founding.

The real issue is, why are homosexual activists so determined to gain acceptance by a youth organization that is rooted in traditional moral beliefs?

Finally, the “new argument” I mentioned above was cited last week in an editorial from the Los Angeles Times this paper reprinted, saying the Scouts “risk long-term irrelevance” because society’s views about homosexuality are becoming more favorable.

Well, maybe that’s the case — or perhaps the “acceptance” the polls report is misinterpreted as also showing support for wider changes in social institutions.

Actual votes count, too — like the recent one in North Carolina, where a state constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage passed by more than a 60-40 margin.

But either way, why should that matter to the Scouts? As I said 20 years ago, “The forces intent on recasting our society want you to think that people who have moral qualms about homosexuality aren’t just being obedient to their religion, or making sensible judgments about the results of homosexual practices — they simply ‘hate,’ that’s all.

“It’s a nice little four-letter word. It allows some people to avoid having to confront reality, or face up to the consequences of their own and others’ actions.”

Now I want to do what I did 20 years ago, which was to note there’s one substantial way to support the Scouts’ good work and their stand for family values: Send a check to the Pine Tree Council, BSA, at 131 Johnson Road, Portland, ME 04102.

As I also said in 1992: “Mine is already in the mail.”

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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