Upon hearing the Supreme Court's decision which permits the Boy Scouts to legally exclude homosexuals from membership, I wondered whether we had stepped back 50 years. It was a fearsome era, when many minorities were excluded from common American institutions. In this recent instance, however, the Supreme Court acquiesced under the Boy Scouts' Constitutional right to free assembly. As Americans, we may each associate at will with whomever we choose. As a private group, the Boy Scouts may likewise set criteria for membership. That right supersedes non-discrimination laws, as long as no criminal offenses result (lynching, etc.). This legal principle protects the Boy Scouts' right to exclude homosexuals just as it protects the KKK's right to parade down Fifth Avenue. To take this principal, however, and to then say that it endorses a heterosexual and condemns a homosexual lifestyle is wrong. The Supreme Court, luckily for us, is not in the business of rendering moral lifestyle edicts.
A letter to this paper's editor by Lynn Winter thoughtfully examined the Boy Scout's moral position and found it wanting. Her legal alternatives were to join another group or to change the thinking of the Boy Scouts. Her choice was to resign her membership for now.
A subsequent letter attacking Ms. Winter's moral position on this issue was as disturbing as the recent Boy Scout decision. The author, Frank Russo Jr., has twisted her words into a conservative's nightmare. While her letter called for tolerance and inclusion, Mr. Russo, through sophistry, paints her as the bigot.
Mr. Russo sees in Ms. Winter's letter a concerted, bigoted attack upon all truly "morally straight" people, a group which includes only heterosexuals. He also sees an attack upon most organized religions, particularly Catholicism (his religion). This is because his personal definition of "morally straight" is identical to (his interpretation of) Catholic religious teachings.
Although Ms. Winter's letter did not mention religion anywhere, let's follow Mr. Russo's logic for a moment.
According to Mr. Russo, Catholicism teaches that homosexuals, while "gravely immoral" beings, must not be unjustly (my underline) discriminated against. Mr. Russo personally agrees with the Catholic viewpoint on morality vis a vis homosexuals, as well as with the Boy Scout viewpoint. He is the vital link justifying a just discrimination, as dispensed by the Catholic Church, courtesy of Frank Russo Jr. It would appear that now the Catholic Church defines morality for all Boy Scouts. An attack on or disagreement with the Boy Scouts becomes an attack on the Catholic Church and on Frank Russo, Jr. personally. This is bully logic. "You fight me, you fight my friends, too."
Ms. Winter's challenge, in daring to openly call the Boy Scouts (unjustly) discriminatory, prejudiced and in refusing to tolerate it, compelled Mr. Russo to call her "ignorant, hostile to his church and a religious bigot." I find it interesting that the issue of some homosexuals, who heretofore were perfectly good Boy Scouts, would raise the ire of this man to such a degree that he would bother to defame a neighbor with such illogical nonsense.
The Constitution endorses both Ms. Winter's and Mr. Russo's rights to voice their opinions and to join their preferred groups. However, when individuals twist people's words and intents to serve their personal moral agendas, they quickly slide down a slippery slope of moral rationalization. Self-serving morality easily transforms into active, unjust discrimination, prejudice and acts of hatred. I urge all of us to clarify our thinking daily, to find the high road.