- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2000

Enjoyable, common-sense editorial about Boy Scouts

I enjoyed your editorial on the demise of common sense regarding the struggle to keep the Boy Scouts free of those it considers unsuitable leaders ("Trustworthy, loyal, helpful and gay?" April 28). Your position is entirely correct.

One passage, however, is off the mark: "Scout leaders have traditionally been older men fathers of the boys in the troop who are understandably concerned with mentoring and guiding their charges. 'Twentysomething,' single, unattached young males clinging to merit badges and campfires is, well, odd."

Yes, scoutmasters are usually fathers of boys in the troop. Their assistants are not, however. In my experience as a Scout in the 1980s, most of the assistant scoutmasters were young men in their 20s and 30s, and few if any were married. They were alumni of the troop who provided some of the best guidance and leadership we had. None of them was a homosexual.

We never considered these men wanting to go hiking, camping, canoeing and shooting "odd." Given their age, they were frequently better able to keep up with the older boys than some of the older scoutmasters.

I was an assistant scoutmaster in the mid-'90s, and my primary purpose was to take them hiking and camping. At the time, I was a captain in the Marine Corps, in my late 20s, single and heterosexual. (References, as they say, furnished upon request.) I was almost always the only adult out with a half-dozen or more teen-age boys.

I did it because scouting provided me with much of the basis for the decisions I took later in life, and I wanted to offer some of the same good experiences and positive guidance I received. Lord knows they need it.

JOHN PIEDMONT

Lake Ridge, Va.

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Even if the Boy Scouts had no message of its own regarding homosexuality and Scouting, this organization has the right under controlling Supreme Court precedent to refuse to be the bearer of a message of a member who wants to declare his pride in being a homosexual Scout.

The declaration is speech, and on that basis, the Supreme Court has consistently held that whether an organization is private or public, it has the right to disqualify from membership a member whose views are at manifest odds with those of the organization, when the organization takes a position.

This was the essence of the unanimous opinion of the court in the 1995 St. Patrick's Day Parade case, Hurley vs. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, and in earlier public club cases.

I have every reason to believe the Supreme Court will not abandon this important and binding precedent now or in the near future.

PAUL JOSEPH WALKOWSKI

Dorchester, Mass.

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Paul Joseph Walkowski is co-author of "From Trial Court to the United States Supreme Court" (Branden Publishing).

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Score one for common sense. The editorial "Trustworthy, loyal, helpful and gay?" reflects a stance that needs to be taken by every American who wishes to preserve the rights to privacy and free association against the onslaught of crybaby minority activists who seek to impose themselves on private organizations.

The editorial is right to equate the prospect of a young homosexual male taking a group of boys into the woods with that of a young heterosexual male taking a group of girls into the woods. It would be foolish to allow it.

Besides the obvious and dangerous opportunities that such a situation would present, the Boy Scouts of America, as a private Judeo-Christian organization, has the right to exclude anyone homosexuals, Muslims, Hindus, etc. who cannot adhere to the values the organization was founded to embody.

CARL P. ACKERMAN

Sterling

Times inconsistent on its stance toward China

The Washington Times' April 24 editorial, "Failing China's dissidents," offers this curious statement: "[T]he U.N. Rights Commission has failed the people of China by blocking a motion to censure the Chinese government's human rights record."

In the past, I have sadly noted your pro-free-trade position with China despite its atrocious human rights record. The logic of your reasoning that trade will solve that problem still escapes me. And yet, you appear dismayed by the failure of the United Nations to censure China.

If "B" is to follow "A" as a matter of logic, one should expect that result when the United States, as one of its leading nations, looks the other way and backs normal trade relations in the name of free trade.

I continue to appreciate your journalistic efforts on behalf of conservative thought, but this position vis-a-vis Communist China appears to be a no-brainer.

KEN WYMAN

Huntsville, Ala.

Teacher's case a contractual, not a constitutional, one

Nat Hentoff's column misstates the matter involving Sherry Hearn, the Windsor Forest High School teacher from Savannah, Ga., who was fired for refusing to take a drug test within two hours of a request to do so. ("Teacher defends constitutional rights," Op-Ed, April 10)

She was terminated for violating a condition in her employment contract she signed months before the incident. Her case is a contractual one, not constitutional. That is how the school board and administration saw the case and, to date, how the courts have seen the case.

As the father of Michael Joseph Street, the young deputy sheriff whose canine was alerted to the marijuana found in Miss Hearn's car, I have watched the facts become distorted in an attempt to make a constitutional argument. The joint was not "still warm," as Mr. Hentoff writes. I guess this added fact is to justify the allegation that unknown parties with an agenda planted it in her vehicle.

Mr. Hentoff has written extensively about this case but has never interviewed my son, who was on school grounds at the request of the school administration. Before canonizing Miss Hearn as the martyred saint for constitutional-rights violations, a more thorough investigation should be made.

Miss Hearn has suffered because she chose to ignore her contractual agreement with the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education. If there was a constitutional issue involved with the employment contract, Miss Hearn should have made the argument before she signed the contract. The challenge may have had merit then, but her challenge now is hollow.

Miss Hearn violated her contract, and she was terminated per the contract. There is no great conspiracy to trample the rights of Miss Hearn. She miscalculated her position and is paying the price for that.

The canard that Miss Hearn was voted "Teacher of the Year" and should be given leeway is silly.

The same year as Miss Hearn's problem, two other teachers ran into contract violation problems similar to hers. One left school to teach elsewhere and the other took a drug test and was reinstated per her contract. Both were bound by their contracts and both are still teaching. Miss Hearn also should be bound by her contract.

This is not constitutional law, it is common sense. It is the making of allowances by the popular that has allowed our society, at times, to allow some to avoid living by the rules. Several professional football players come to mind as an example. That is offensive to a democracy.

The Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education has a problem with violence and open drug sales within its schools. It has instituted a "no tolerance" approach to these problems. With thousands of children in the school system, the safety of these children demands this approach.

This approach, taken before Miss Hearn's problems, has resulted in a great many prosecutions of drug and weapons incidents involving students and non-students on school grounds.

We live in a violent, drug-infested society. Schools are a microcosm of our society. The board of education has taken steps to ensure the safety of the children while those children are in the school system.

KEVIN J. STREET

Savannah, Ga.

Kevin J. Street is a lawyer.

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