- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Boy Scout motto “be prepared” now means more than building campfires and learning first aid. For Hans Zeiger, being prepared in the 21st century means defending the organizational honor of the Boy Scouts of America.

The 19-year-old Scout has made preserving the Boy Scout Oath and Law his personal battle. Honor, he says, is essentially what the Boy Scouts are all about.

“The Boy Scouts are an institution of honor that serve to connect young men to things higher than themselves, such as God and country and the ideals of service and duty,” Mr. Zeiger said. “It’s a good organization, and one that has contributed so much to America and one that teaches self-government, without which we can’t have constitutional government.”

An Eagle Scout from Puyallup, Wash., who now works as an assistant troop leader, he began writing his new book, “Get Off My Honor: The Assault on the Boy Scouts of America,” when he was 16.

Left-wing groups, he says, are doing more than attacking ideas by “assaulting” the Boy Scouts’ belief system — they are attacking the honor and character of the members of the organization.

The Boy Scouts hold to a strict code, embodied in the Scout Oath. The oath reads: “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.”

It is that oath, and therefore honor, that Mr. Zeiger, a student at Hillsdale College in Michigan, attempts to defend through his book.

“Scouts’ honor is under attack in American culture,” Mr. Zeiger writes. “Honor, ‘the foundation of all character,’ has been nearly forgotten by a generation of Americans who, as products of a morally relativistic culture, care more about serving themselves than about their obligations to the community, the nation and the world. Character itself has gone by the wayside.”

In Mr. Zeiger’s estimation — and in the view of most of the Boy Scouts of America — it is the honor, not the “intolerance,” of the Scouts that is at issue in the battles over the policies excluding homosexuals and atheists from the organization’s ranks.

The Boy Scouts maintain that they are not exclusionary — they say homosexuals and atheists exclude themselves by identifying with groups and agendas not compatible with Boy Scout values and ethos.

The Boy Scouts’ public proclamation, Mr. Zeiger said, is nothing more than a statement about the groups’ purposeful self-exclusion as being necessary to the organization’s code.

“Their membership standards and the issue of honor suggests that only certain people are going to live up to that code, and there are others that are going to choose not to,” Mr. Zeiger said.

Homosexuals are excluded from the Boy Scout ranks because they hold values that are harmful to American society, Mr. Zeiger said.

“Regardless of what leads to homosexuality, it is a thing that has an agenda in our society and is very harmful to the traditional family and is causing a tremendous amount of harm to young men,” he said. “The Boy Scouts are one of the few organizations that have the moral sense to stand against the homosexual agenda, and it’s an agenda that’s quite different. It’s definitely highly political and is accompanied by an entire body of moral relativism.”

After lengthy court battles in the past several years, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts can ban homosexual troop leaders, saying that because the organization is a private institution it has a right to exclude whoever it chooses to.

“The Supreme Court affirmed our First Amendment right to gather peaceably,” said Greg Shields, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, headquartered in Irving, Texas. “We simply feel that a homosexual is not a role model that we would choose for leadership, and you have to be a member to be a leader in Boy Scouts. It’s that simple, and it’s always been that way.”

Much of the battle over the Boy Scouts’ rights as a private institution stems from the group’s use of public buildings, says Madhavi Sunder, a professor of law at the University of California at Davis School of Law.

“The Boy Scouts fought for their right to exclude; now, other people are exercising their right to exclude them [from using public buildings] because they have different values,” Miss Sunder said. “It’s the classic case of calling the kettle black. Boy Scouts told young gay kids that they are not fit to be associated with, and the Boy Scouts are now being told that they aren’t fit to be associated with.”

But the Boy Scouts maintain that they always have been a private institution and that recent criticism over their membership policies should not affect whether they are allowed to use public buildings.

“We respect other people’s opinions — we would simply ask them to have tolerance for our values.” Mr. Shields said. “We can hold our heads up and do what we are about. The court has given us the right to do that, and we are going to continue to succeed.”

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