Linda Lerner is a patient woman. For 10 years, as an elected member of the Pinellas County School Board in southeast Florida, she has been trying to banish an educational program that is a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America.
At its meeting on October 11, the board finally cut ties with the program Learning for Life, which teaches character education and eight core values, including respect, responsibility, honesty, self-discipline and citizenship.
Learning for Life is not considered a traditional Scouting program; i.e., it does not use the Scout Promise, Scout Law, uniforms or insignia of traditional Scouting. Furthermore, all Learning for Life programs “are open to youth and adults without restriction based on gender, residence, religion, sexual orientation or other considerations, other than minimum age requirements.”
That doesn’t satisfy Lerner, however. “This board has a chance to send a strong message to the Boy Scouts,” she said during the recent meeting.
What’s the message? Clearly, it’s that any group associated with the Boy Scouts of America is now tarred with guilt by association due to the Boy Scouts’ refusal to let homosexual men be Scout troop leaders.
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts of America’s right as a private group to exclude homosexuals as troop leaders. When questioned about the Pinellas County case, BSA spokesman Deron Smith told the St. Petersburg Times that “while the membership standards of the BSA do not impact Learning for Life, the leadership of BSA maintains that its programs are not the appropriate forum to discuss and debate one’s sexuality.”
In a society where discussing and debating “one’s sexuality” is becoming a national preoccupation, we’re thankful to see one forum where that is not deemed appropriate.
Nevertheless, for those who want to “send a strong message to the Boy Scouts,” no opportunity is overlooked in their religious jihad against the Scouts.
A spokesman for the pro-homosexual group Equality Florida told the Times that the board’s decision was a “teachable moment” for Pinellas students. “At the heart of it, you’re teaching character education to children from an organization that at its core is discriminatory,” said Brian Winfield. “These are tax dollars being spent, and they should be directed to a program that is not discriminatory.”
Small point of clarification here — as noted above, Learning for Life’s programs are open to all, and it only “discriminates” based on a minimum age requirement, but not on “sexual orientation.” But it’s really not Learning for Life that’s the concern of Lerner and others such as Winfield. It’s the Boy Scouts of America and their resolute stand against pressure to abandon traditional morality and put Boy Scouts at risk from predatory homosexual Scout leaders.
But let’s consider the supposed “discrimination” that the Boy Scouts are allegedly guilty of. After all, that’s what finally won over the swing vote of school board member Lew Williams. “All my life I’ve stood against discrimination of all kinds,” said Williams in explaining his vote to the Times reporter Rebecca Catalanello.
Given his statement, I would have liked Ms. Catalanello to ask Mr. Williams: “If that’s the case, why do the Pinellas County schools only hire certified teachers? Isn’t that discriminating against those who don’t have teaching certificates?”
Or a follow-up question might be: “What about laws that prohibit child molesters from living near schools? Are you opposed to such ‘discriminatory’ laws?”
The point here is that we all “discriminate” in the sense that we make distinctions among individuals based on their behaviors. And making such distinctions based on certain standards of morality is a part of every society. Those standards may vary. Thus, in the United States, where the standards of Judeo-Christian morality prevail, we don’t allow so-called honor killing. By contrast, in nations where shariah law sets the moral code, this is not frowned on.
Nevertheless, those who preach moral relativism quite regularly tag as “discriminatory” distinctions made in accordance with the moral code that has been the foundation for Western civilization since Christianity began to spread it beyond the borders of the tiny nation of Israel.
The four Pinellas County board members who voted against the character education program, Learning for Life, have failed to understand this key difference between making a distinction based on an immoral behavior and discriminating against someone based on an inherited trait such as race.
Let’s hope, however, that other school boards across the country will not follow suit and base their decisions on guilt by association in an effort to “send a message” to the Boy Scouts of America.
We could certainly do with a little less political correctness in our public school system — and a lot more character education programs, as well as curricula such as that of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.
Then, perhaps, the present societal slide toward moral degeneracy might begin to turn around and organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America will be applauded rather than hounded by those who want to “send them a message.”
Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Truth in Action Ministries, author of The War on Children, and co-author of Ten Truths About Socialism. As a career educator, Dr. Gushta has taught from kindergarten to graduate teacher education in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education and Masters degrees in Elementary Education and Christianity and Culture.
Publication date: October 20, 2011