- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2001

The Public Broadcasting Service tomorrow will air a documentary that reportedly takes issue with the Boy Scouts policy of excluding homosexuals. But conservatives are determined to block it.
Foes of the film say it is one-sided and misuses public money.
"Its one thing if [the documentarys producer, Tom Shepard] were to produce a film on his private dime. But when you bring the taxpayer money in, and are bringing taxpayer money in, to undermine the Boy Scouts of America, it changes things. Then it becomes a concern of taxpaying Americans," said Peter LaBarbera, senior policy analyst at the Culture and Family Institute in Washington.
Mr. LaBarbera and those who share his sentiments have initiated a grass-roots e-mail campaign, encouraging like-minded citizens to call their local PBS station and ask them not to air the show — or at least, to provide equal time for a similar film from the opposing viewpoint.
More than half of PBS funding comes from viewers and national and state governments — and that is what has caused controversy.
The documentary, "Scouts Honor," examines the aftermath of last summers Supreme Court ruling that the Boy Scouts may exclude homosexual members and leaders. It follows the lives of 16-year-old Boy Scout Steven Cozza and 71-year-old Scoutmaster David Rice. They are the heterosexual founders of "Scouting for All," an alliance of homosexuals and heterosexuals that is fighting the Boy Scouts policy.
People on both sides of the issue who have viewed the film say that it is done in such a way as to make the Boy Scouts appear homophobic and intolerant, while making Steven appear heroic and worthy of admiration for his conviction and tenacity.
"It really showed the courage of Steven Cozza in a way that I thought was very heartwarming and very powerful," said Amy Koberta, spokeswoman for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). The show will air locally on Channels 22 and 26 tomorrow at 10 p.m. as one in a series of "Point of View" independent nonfiction films.
"Scouts Honor" was produced by Mr. Shepard in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS). ITVS was established by Congress "to fund and promote programming that involves creative risks and addresses the needs of underserved audiences."
Ms. Koberta says that the homosexual community is one such underserved audience and lauds PBS decision to air "Scouts Honor."
Many religious and conservative groups do not.
"If there was ever an overserved audience proportionally, its [homosexuals]," Mr. LaBarbera said. "To say theyre underserved is the height of ridiculousness."
Pro-family conservative Guyla Mills of Kerusso Ministries, a nonprofit organization in Newport News, Va., agrees, and says that as a public broadcasting network, PBS should make an effort to balance its programming.
"It was very one-sided," she said of "Scouts Honor." She said that while the film included interviews with people supportive of the Boy Scouts policy, the film was slanted to evoke sympathy with Steven, not the Boy Scouts.
Ms. Koberta says the film was "very well-balanced" and includes the opposing viewpoint.
But Mr. LaBarbera says that any mention of the opposition was "token." He says Mr. Shepard, the films producer, is a known homosexual activist and says the video has been shown at "Gay Pride" events in an attempt to mobilize homosexuals against the Boy Scouts.
Additionally, several homosexual activists, including Kevin Jennings, executive director for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), are on the films board of advisers. Mr. LaBarbera says any film with that kind of track record is obviously slanted — something he finds unacceptable in taxpayer-funded programming.
"I dont think a documentary always needs to be two-sided, but PBS is supposed to serve the nation," Mr. LaBarbera said. "I dont think the purpose of PBS is to be used to spread propaganda against one of Americas most beloved institutions."
The Boy Scouts of America was chartered by Congress in 1916 as an educational program for boys to build character, train them in citizenship responsibilities and help them develop personal fitness.
Scouts take an oath that says, "On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight." The Scouts say that while they do not make efforts to learn the sexual orientation of members, open homosexuality is inconsistent with the organizations values.
James Dale, an Eagle Scout in New Jersey, was expelled from the organization in 1989 when officials found out he was homosexual. He sued the Boy Scouts in state court in 1992, but a Superior Court judge dismissed his claims in 1995. A New Jersey appellate court overturned that decision in 1998 and the state Supreme Court upheld it in 1999.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that ruling last summer, affirming that the Boy Scouts may make its own rules regarding membership and leadership.
Angered by the U.S. Supreme Courts action, Steven and Mr. Rice began a media campaign and petition in their hometown of Petaluma, Calif., attempting to change the Scouts policy.
"Whats ironic is that the values and tenets that Steven Cozza learned in Scouting about fairness, about sticking up for the rights of all people, and being honest and open in your relationships sort of welled up in him and moved him to take a stand," Mr. Shepard said.

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