California Senator Ricardo Lara is the latest in a series of people and entities to bully young boys. This phrase is intended to be as shocking as it sounds, only because the advocacy he is engaging in is equally so. In a game of mother-may-I gone wrong, California Senator Lara and Equality California have joined forces to propose California Senate Bill 323, which would strip California’s Boy Scouts (BSA) and other youth organizations of their tax-exemptions if they maintain membership requirements based on moral values, such as the scouts’ policy of being “morally straight.” Similarly, UPS recently became an antagonist when it announced that it would discontinue donations if BSA maintains the policy it has had in place for over a century. And Intel continued its menacing—publically affirming that BSA could once again become an eligible recipient of its charitable gifts if BSA will conform its policies to match those of the software giant.
The idea that government should dictate to the Boy Scouts—a private charitable organization—the characteristics and values that are necessary to lead one of its troops is quite simply un-American. Part of the beauty of this country is that people can associate around shared values, ideas, and interests, and that they are not forced to include persons who do not share those values. Not even Equality California would like to be coerced, through the withdrawal of its tax exemption and elimination of its corporate funding, to employ persons whose beliefs are contrary to its mission. Frankly, it is a scary idea that BSA or Equality California or any other nonprofit should be forced to ask the proverbial hand that feeds them how to run their organization and who their leaders should be. Yet Equality California and Senator Lara think that they have knowledge superior to the Boy Scouts’ (who have been scouting for over 100 years) about what qualities, characteristics, and values are essential in scout leaders and scout members to advance the Boy Scouts’ unique purpose. And that arrogance has caused them to become the type of bullies they so often attempt to denounce.
The further irony is that Senator Lara should be concerned about protecting and serving the electorate, especially those constituents that are unable to advocate for themselves. But, instead, he is advocating to withdraw resources from the weakest members of society – children. And for what objective or for what constituency is Senator Lara so aggressively advocating? The gay, lesbian, and transgender lobby, which has deep pockets and broad political support. Surely Equality California and the LGBT community can advocate for change themselves without legislating the removal of the Scouts’ tax exemption. Moreover, if the LGBT community’s objective is to be included in the Boy Scouts’ organization and activities, it seems counterproductive to destroy the organization they supposedly want to join by first calling for the removal of its funding and tax exemption. On the contrary, Senator Lara, Equality California and others, such as UPS and Intel, who obviously have the funds of the gay lobby in mind, have chosen to make BSA’s leadership choices a political platform. Put simply, they are arguing that the feelings of excluded adults, or perhaps their political objectives, are more valuable than the 100-million youth members that BSA has served.
Senator Lara’s own press releases acknowledge the sound policy reasons for providing tax exemptions to nonprofits like BSA: “‘Our state values the important role that youth groups play in the empowerment of our next generation … by rewarding organizations with tax exemptions [.]’” But in the next breath he seeks to withdraw support from an organization known to develop model citizenry. Scouting shapes youth character, encourages fitness, and teaches practical skills. In 2011, Boy Scouts across America volunteered more than 25 million hours of public service, including collecting, distributing and serving food to the needy, implementing community beautification and conservation projects in conjunction with government agencies, and providing military support and appreciation. It is doubtful that any youth organization better achieves the types of government objectives that warrant tax exemption.
Senator Lara and Equality California should issue a formal apology for trying to bully BSA into changing its values. And, if UPS or Intel has the courage to stand up to the bullies and defend Scouts’ honor, they should publically reward Boy Scouts of America’s excellent service with true charitable gifts—the kind that come with no strings attached.
If you want the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America to stand firm and continue upholding the organization’s longstanding principles, sign this petition that will be sent to the leadership prior to their vote.
This post originally appeared here.