Tags: Gore | pledges | fight | Boy | Scouts

Gore pledges to fight Boy Scouts

Tuesday, 07 November 2000 12:00 AM

Gore had not responded to questions about the Boy Scouts until recently when he appeared on "Good Morning America." He was asked by reporter Charles Gibson if he agreed with the decision by the Supreme Court to let the BSA ban gay leaders. Said Gore:

"On the grounds that were used for the decision, the right of free association, yes. But I oppose discrimination. And the court did not reach the underlying question that others have raised there. I ... I want to see a day, Charlie, where we don't have this ... this kind of discrimination by groups public or private. And I think that we're moving into a future where that discrimination can be brought to an end. The principal piece of legislation on that, incidentally, is the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which I support and which Governor Bush does not support. And I think we need to move to a day when we don't have discrimination."

The Rev. Jerry Falwell said in a phone interview that Gore was using "his usual doublespeak" to try to please all sides of the issue.

"He says he agrees with the Supreme Court decision, but then he said he thinks the Boy Scouts discriminate against [gays] and he plans to bring it to an end," said Falwell. He also pointed out that during the recent presidential debates, Gore said he does not believe gays should marry, but he then said they should be able to have some sort of "civic union."

The Boy Scouts have always made the president of the United States honorary president of the BSA. Gibson was surprised when Gore said he would accept the position if he were elected, in order to "provide leadership to end discrimination."

Gov. George W. Bush, Republican candidate for president, believes the Boy Scouts of America has the right to exclude gays from membership and leadership – and doing so is not a form of discrimination against gays.

"The Supreme Court upheld the rights of the Boy Scouts to be able to make decisions about their membership as a fundamental right to be exercised in our country – and that's true for any group," said Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, speaking for Bush in an exclusive interview. Racicot spoke by phone while flying to a campaign stop for Bush over the weekend.

The 5-4 ruling on June 28 agreed with the claim by the Boy Scouts of America that it has the right to exclude gays from participation, reversing an earlier decision by the New Jersey State Supreme Court.

Racicot explained that many groups restrict membership in various ways, but that does not make such groups discriminatory. People with similar beliefs have the right to associate with those of the same beliefs and exclude those who do not agree. Anyone excluded from such a group has the right to form an organization to accommodate their own belief system without forcing others to accommodate them, he said.

"I guess I was very disappointed, and it was sad and frankly hurt my heart to see the Boy Scouts booed at the Democratic National Convention when they were presenting the colors," said Racicot, who said his present values were formed by his experiences as a Scout.

Gay activists have targeted the BSA for protests all across the country. They have also lobbied school boards, city councils and United Way chapters to cut off financial support and sponsorship of the Boy Scouts.

"I think they [BSA] have the right to set their own membership requirements before admission is granted, and that's what Gov. Bush thinks as well. There's nothing illegal or inappropriate or discriminatory or any effort that's designed here to diminish or to act out of a lack of respect. They are simply setting the requirements of membership, and I think when the [Supreme] Court rules in the fashion that it did, that's the highest form of protection that can be provided," he said.

Racicot said the decision by the Supreme Court provides a major reason for concern over who becomes the next president. The BSA won by only a 5-4 vote. The next president will have an opportunity to select future members of the Supreme Court. A change in philosophy by new members of the court could bring an end to the Boy Scouts.

"Depending upon an individual's perspective of their constitutional duties, that can have extraordinary ramifications. ... When the function is performed properly you interpret the Constitution as it is, and the law as it's written by Congress. You do not set about it as a court or an arm of the judiciary to socially engineer or to legislate," explained Racicot.

Although some schools and cities have dropped sponsorship of Scout groups, and about 24 United Way chapters have withdrawn funds from the BSA, members of the general public appeared to support the Scouts in large numbers in two recent events.

The town of Cape St. Claire, Md., recently held the first public vote on the BSA issue. The town overwhelmingly defeated an effort by the board of governors to end sponsorship of Cub Scout Pack 707 when 90 percent voted for the BSA. The vote was in spite of significant efforts by gay activists, who labeled the BSA as "discriminatory" and "bigots."

The Chicago Tribune recently conducted a poll and found similar public support for the Boy Scouts. In an Illinois statewide poll, 82 percent said they supported the Scouts, 10 percent were opposed, and 8 percent were undecided.

Former Christian Coalition leader and present Bush consultant Ralph Reed sent an e-mail to supporters in response to their request that Bush do more to communicate his support for the Scouts.

"Thanks for the suggestion, with which I concur," said Reed. "We have recently had Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts at rallies surrounding the governor and we are underscoring the issue in our voter contact programs," he explained.

Given the recent press accounts that Bush was arrested for driving under the influence, would Bush be an appropriate example for young boys as honorary president of the BSA?

Racicot said he has been a close friend and associate of Bush for a number of years. He said Bush made the same indiscretions "as millions of other Americans." He said Bush should be seen as a positive example of someone who recognized his mistakes and took steps to change for the better.

Racicot, who was present when Bush was making the decision to run for president, said that Bush is a man of great faith. "He decided to make a change in his life, and his faith is a very, very significant part of that decision.

He said the Boy Scout issue is just one example of the threats to rights and freedoms that could be impacted by this presidential election. "There are profound implications to virtually every constitutional right that is enunciated within our Constitution," said Racicot. "Whether you're talking about property rights, or the 10th Amendment – deferring the discretion that the founders intended to the states, or reserving it unto Washington – there are many profound implications.

"Al Gore has an expansive view of government and what it has the right to do and what it ought to undertake in terms of what he believes is appropriate ultimately for the people of this country.

"George Bush trusts people to make individual decisions, although government certainly has a legitimate and appropriate limited role. That particular understanding alone reflects a very profound difference in philosophy," explained Racicot.

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Gore had not responded to questions about the Boy Scouts until recently when he appeared on Good Morning America. He was asked by reporter Charles Gibson if he agreed with the decision by the Supreme Court to let the BSA ban gay leaders. Said Gore: On the grounds that...
Tuesday, 07 November 2000 12:00 AM
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