Two nights ago with Tucker Carlson, I discussed the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to drop the "Boy" bit. The ruination of a great civilizing institution has been accomplished in a mere two decades. As I wrote three years ago:
In the late Nineties, the BSA said no to gay scoutmasters. I was on the floor of the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles in 2000 when they had some Eagle scouts as an honor guard - and in my section of the crowd everyone booed. And I remember thinking, "Man, these Dems are nuts. Booing boy scouts?"
But the booers won. Over the next decade, gay-friendly churches (Episcopalian, Congregational, and the other post-Christian ones) booted the scouts from church halls where they'd met for decades; Disney cut them off the list of approved charities to which their employees were permitted to donate their "Ears To You" fundraising proceeds; other corporate benefactors from the US soccer league to Lockheed Martin severed their ties ...and the number of new recruits to scouting dwindled remorselessly, and so did their finances. And in the end the boy scouts' leader caved - but too late. In the blink of an eye, the boy scouts had been, as my friend Ezra Levant likes to say, "de-normalized", and banished to the fringe, and nice soccer mommies don't want l'il Jimmy playing on the extremist fringe.
That's quite an accomplishment. After all, until Democrats figured it was safe to boo them, boy scouts were so mainstream that their very name is a synonym for someone kindly and pure and good-hearted. Take litigious lunatic and Nobel Prize appropriator Michael E Mann, who says here that the argument between the global warming crowd and us deniers has been "likened at times to a fight between a boy scout and a terrorist - and you know, we are the boy scouts". Which would make me the terrorist. When Mann calls himself a "boy scout", he doesn't mean he's a homophobic hater - although I'm certainly happy to advance that line in court if it helps. Mann is using "boy scouts" as a synonym for "the good guys".
That's how effective Big Gay is: They took "the good guys", and made 'em the bad guys, in nothing flat.
How many other groups are willing to be boy-scouted in the years ahead?
The Scouts themselves learned their lesson: Never again. So, when Big Tranny came for them, they caved instantly, and admitted transgender cubs, a concept Baden-Powell would have regarded as entirely absurd (who knows where a confused eight-year-old's going to be in a decade or so?) but which his successors are so gung ho for it's only a matter of time before we have a Merit Badge for Transitioning.
Speaking of B-P, he was the founder of scouting, the creator of a great worldwide movement, and a chap who, for all his eccentricities, understood that societies need institutions to help make men of boys. At the time of the original BSA fracas, I wrote in The Daily Telegraph of London on June 30th 2000:
The United States Supreme Court wrapped up its term this week with a bundle of rulings on everything from gay Boy Scouts to partial-birth abortion, and raised many interesting questions. Among them: how crazy do you have to be to be a Supreme Court justice?
The gay case arose after a New Jersey scoutmaster was sacked for being openly homosexual, and the question for the court was really whether the Scouts were a private organisation or a public body. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that, like restaurants, the Boy Scouts are a 'public accommodation', which, curiously enough, is exactly how my own frisky scoutmaster and his wandering woggle used to look on me.
But that was then and this is now. North of the border, they've just recognised the planet's first openly gay Scout troop - who donned their rainbow neckerchiefs and marched in Toronto's Gay Pride parade the other day. (Feel free to insert your own jokes about Merit Badges for Camping at this point.) In such a world, there seemed little point in the Jersey Scouts contesting the case on the quaint grounds that homosexuality is incompatible with the injunction to be 'morally straight', as laid out by Lord Baden-Powell. And yet, amazingly, the Scouts won: the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that to force them to accept gay scoutmasters would violate their right to freedom of expressive association.
In his dissenting opinion, however, Justice John Paul Stevens argued that, on the one hand, homosexuality is not incompatible with Scout Oath and Law - no matter what the Scouts themselves say - and, on the other, scouting has not been sufficiently robust in communicating its disapproval of gayness to warrant First Amendment protection. In other words, in Justice Stevens's America, the only way to avoid being sued by gays is to be more virulently anti-gay.
Ah, well - you gotta smile. As Scout Law Number Eight enjoins: 'A Scout smiles and whistles under all difficulties.' One difficulty B-P never foresaw was that the likes of Justice Stevens, whose job is to interpret the Constitution, would start moonlighting and take it upon himself to interpret Scout law, too. The resourcefulness of judges is something to behold but it's still a stretch to find anything in Scout law or lore remotely encouraging of practising gays. B-P took a dim view of any kind of carnal activity - or, as he put it, 'beastliness' - especially when practised by certain types of young men with their 'pink socks, fancy ties and well-oiled hair'. Hmm. What exactly are you getting at there, m'lord?
To the modern American sensibility, Baden-Powell is obviously out of his tree. But that's no reason to let Supreme Court justices apply the caprices of interpretative constitutionalism and judicial activism not just to the state's articles of association but to everybody else's - the Scouts, the Grange, the Ladies' Aid Society. The 5-4 judgment in the Scouts' favour is a reminder that traditional American freedoms hang by a slender thread.
And a lot of the time, Justice Stevens wins. Also this week, the court upheld Colorado's decision to abrogate the First Amendment rights of pro-life groups protesting outside 'women's health centres', as the abortion mills are euphemistically known. Writing for the majority, Justice Stevens subordinated the constitutional right to freedom of speech to an entirely new one he cooked up on the spot: the right of citizens in public places to avoid 'unwanted communication'; the right 'to be let alone'. Ah, yes. Back in the old days in Alabammy, it used to really bug me when you'd be trying to have a quiet BLT at your segregated lunch counter and a bunch of uppity negroes would be kicking up a fuss outside.
So abortion clinics have a right to be let alone, but not the Boy Scouts. And so it has gone in the years since: You can torment a Christian into baking you a wedding cake with two grooms atop, but good luck demanding gay baklava from a Muslim baker.
But you'll notice it's traditional male institutions which have to be hollowed out the most totally. The left is committed to the complete abolition of the sexes, which they believe means de facto abolition of man and manliness. We laugh at that, but in the course of a decade they nuked the Boy Scouts and a century-old legacy. Who's next?
~On Sunday I'll be in New York for the annual gala fundraiser for CAMERA, an invaluable institution for the truth on what's happening in the Middle East. (They could do with a European and North American branch, I'm beginning to think.) More details here - and please note the admission price is considered a tax-deductible donation, and you can get $50 off if you enter promo code MARK.
This weekend is also the first anniversary of The Mark Steyn Club, and we will have some special celebrations all month long in print, audio and video format. But the indispensable element of the Club is its membership - and I'm very heartened by all those who signed up on that first day just under a year ago who've taken the plunge to re-up 48 hours early. It means an awful lot to know you appreciate what we do here. For more information on The Mark Steyn Club, see here - and, if you've enjoyed the first year here, you can always sign up a chum for Gift Membership. We're a convivial bunch in the Club, I like to think.
Oh, and we have a first-birthday competition, too: As you may know, Cary Katz and CRTV have decided to re-sue me, this time for a mere $5 million. Their legal complaint includes as part of Exhibit C my January Song of the Week essay on "Oh Happy Day" - which doesn't mention Katz or CRTV but which he claims nevertheless is derogatory and defamatory of him. So we're running a competition to help Katz's unfortunate lawyer find something actionable in that "Happy Day" column. First prize is a year's subscription to CRTV, and second prize is (warning: obvious punchline rumbling down the track) two subscriptions. Email your entries here, and we'll be announcing the winner next week.