The joyful anticipation of a fresh conquest is palpable on the front page of today’s New York Times: “In a Quick Shift, Scouts Rethink a Ban on Gays.” That’s right, at its national executive board meeting next week, the Boy Scouts of America will consider eliminating its present policy of treating the Scouts’ requirement to be “morally straight” as barring openly homosexual boys and men from membership or leadership in the organization. The pressure of the LGBTQA (add a fresh letter at your own discretion) lobby, which has gotten to many corporate supporters of the Scouts, is on the brink of succeeding in altering the moral character of another venerable private institution.
According to the Times, the policy on the agenda of next week’s meeting would result in a localization of moral standards in Scout troops:
Mr. Smith, the Scouts spokesman, said that under the proposed policy, “the B.S.A. would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.” He said that members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best met the needs of their families.
This attempt at compromise will last about five minutes, if the Scouts’ national executive is foolish enough to adopt it. Already one of the pressure-group leaders who has brought the Scouts to the brink of this change is warning that it does not go far enough:
“It’s a step in the right direction, and good to see that B.S.A. is softening its position,” [Zach Wahls] said. “But under the policy change, it will still be possible for some units to discriminate.”
This is a perfect occasion for a reminder of Neuhaus’ Law, named for First Things founding editor Richard John Neuhaus, who coined it in a “Public Square” entry in the January 1997 issue titled “The Unhappy Fate of Optional Orthodoxy.” Here is the Law as Fr. Neuhaus himself stated it: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”
As Neuhaus went on to explain, with his usual trenchant insight:
With the older orthodoxy it is possible to disagree, as in having an argument. Evidence, reason, and logic count, in principle at least. Not so with the new orthodoxy. Here disagreement is an intolerable personal affront. It is construed as a denial of others, of their experience of who they are. It is a blasphemous assault on that most high god, “My Identity.” Truth-as-identity is not appealable beyond the assertion of identity. In this game, identity is trumps.
Just so. If the Boy Scouts drop the organization’s present position on homosexuality, not only will millions of parents withdraw their sons from the organization, and thousands of pastors will drop their churches’ sponsorship of Scout troops, they will be absolutely right to do so. For it will only be a matter of time before the Boy Scouts of America will pronounce itself in favor of same-sex marriage; will adopt instructional materials, mandatory in all troops, on the compulsory acceptance, by all members and leaders, of homosexual relations as normal and normative; and will move to silence all dissent from the new orthodoxy by boys, parents, troop leaders, and sponsoring organizations. The Scouts, in short, will rapidly become, from the top down, a national pro-gay organization, local control be damned.
That is the true choice the leaders of the BSA face next week. Be what the Scouts have always been, since the birth of the organization. Or rapidly become what the advocates of the “gay identity” demand, with all its attendant intolerance of dissent. There is no middle way, between standing upright and falling prostrate before new gods.
Oh, and next to go, of course, will be the proscription of atheism, though everyone swears it is not up for discussion now. That too will last about five minutes. You heard it here first.