- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

The Clinton administration has just opened a new front in the assault on the Boy Scouts. The Department of the Interior is now hunting through its files to see whether the agency might be treating the Scouts as though the group were a respectable, even laudable, organization. Regardless of whether Boy Scouts help elderly women across the street or simply cultivate virtue among their peers, they may no longer qualify for such treatment.

The problem is that the once-venerable Scouts believe that homosexual practices do not comport with the Scout Oath and Law, which include pledges to revere God and to be "morally straight." Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Scouts were free to associate with those who shared their understanding of the phrase and were willing to abide by it. The high court held also that they were free not to associate with those who disagreed and therefore that the Scouts did not have to admit homosexuals to the organization's ranks.

But five days before the court ruled, President Clinton issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of "race, sex, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, sexual orientation and status as a parent in federally conducted education and training programs." On the basis of the language about "sexual orientation," Interior's Bureau of Reclamation is now seeking information about any dealings it may have with the Boy Scouts. In particular the agency wants to find out about the Boy Scout Jamboree to be held at Fort A.P. Hill, an army post in Bowling Green, Va.

The not-so-subtle threat is that if the feds can find an excuse to stop the Jamboree on the basis of the executive order, the Scouts will come to their senses and rewrite organization rules according to federal guidelines. When the mood strikes again, the feds can compel further rewrites on behalf of politically powerful groups until finally the Boy Scouts could pass as delegates to a Democratic Party convention, which would be fine except that no one would confuse them with Boy Scouts.

The agency's actions are but the latest in a series of hostile activities directed at the group. Delegates to the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles booed them, and numerous companies already have withdrawn financial support for the Scouts. Others are considering it, among them Chase Manhattan Corp. and Merrill Lynch & Co. Media outlet Knight Ridder has asked the United Way not to give any of the company's donations to the Boy Scouts because it would conflict "with the company's philosophy on people and diversity, and the company could not support such a discriminatory stance," a company spokesman said. Apparently the company's version of diversity is not broad enough to include "morally straight" Boy Scouts.

If the administration succeeds in blocking the Jamboree or other group-related events, the Scouts won't be the only losers. It would set an example for administrations to follow against other groups in the future. Someday the persons now egging on the administration may find that out the hard way.

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