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The ACLU Versus Freedom of Assembly

By: Ben Boychuk
September 29, 2000

Law, in the eyes of the American Civil Liberties Union, is a weapon. It is the means by which the power of government is molded and the freedom of the people is shaped for the ACLU's purposes. This is the only explanation for the ACLU's continuing war against that free association of young Americans known as the Boy Scouts.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Scouts' First Amendment right to set the moral parameters for membership in their organization. The Court's decision in Boy Scouts of America vs. James Dale backed the Scouts' policy of excluding homosexuals, atheists, and others who reject the core mission statement embodied in the Scout Oath to ". . . keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."

The reprisals began almost immediately. Liberals were outraged and redoubled their attacks on the Scouts' beliefs. Newspapers assailed the ruling. A few donors cowed under pressure and withdrew their support. The U.S. Interior Department even mulled the idea of banning the Scouts from using federal land for campouts and jamborees.

But at the forefront of the war to subvert the Court's preservation of diversity is the ACLU. The ACLU's Southern California chapter threatened to sue Orange County, California for renewing the Scouts' 30-year free lease to run a marine-education and recreation camp in Newport Beach. And last month, its lawyers sued San Diego over the Scouts' use of city property in Balboa Park.

To its credit, Orange County's board of supervisors was utterly unmoved by this legal gangsterism. "The county gets sued every day by somebody," said Supervisor Todd Spitzer.

Perhaps. But for the friends of liberty, the nationwide effort to smash the right of free citizens to assemble is worrisome. To smear the Scouts as rednecks using the patina of law is legal prejudice in its most disgusting form.

The enemies of Scouting see no difference between private associations that may receive public benefits (directly or indirectly) and government itself. And in their zeal to attack private groups, they would expand government power far beyond what is wise or moral.

ACLU attorney Martha Matthews told the Orange County Register that the county could not "legally provide a taxpayer-funded benefit to a private organization that asserted its right to ban gay members on religious grounds." The law bars the county from helping a group that "insists on discriminating," she said.

But to understand this specious argument, we must understand that the ACLU isn't seeking greater diversity. It is our choices as individuals to join or not join groups that reflect our beliefs that defines our liberty under the First Amendment.

Even the ACLU does it.

The ACLU does not tend to hire deeply religious Americans who believe that a prayer before a football game is a sign of free devotion. The ACLU excludes Americans who believe in the original intent and law of the Constitution. The ACLU actively discriminates against judges who oppose judicial activism. But under the Bill of Rights, that band of lawyers can gather based on their shared beliefs without fear of reprisal from the government — or from the Boy Scouts, as far as that goes.

The Boy Scouts teach young men to respect the law, help the unfortunate, give to the community, and respect and preserve the nation's vast natural resources. Boy Scouts learn the consequences of their actions and the moral worth of teamwork.

No matter. The ACLU wants all-out-war. Yes, the Supreme Court has spoken, but only the most naive observer believes the fight ends with the Constitution. The fight — is — the Constitution.

The ACLU holds that the government should not "help" the Boy Scouts. Under this logic, a Scout would be precluded from helping an old lady across the street because that street is supported by tax dollars. Sounds absurd? In several cities, the ACLU is working to lock Scouts out of public schools, asserting that the Scouts "can't have it both ways" — that is, they can't claim to be a private organization and "benefit" from public facilities.

The ACLU will not stop its war against the Scouts until they interpret that oath the ACLU way, define diversity the ACLU way, and accept as members those whom the ACLU deems acceptable. Perhaps only when the ACLU creates the merit badges will the campaign end.

In a sense, though, this campaign of legal harassment is just another step for an ACLU that now marches more than symbolically with Nazis and the North American Man-Boy Love Association. What it is doing is just an extension of its plastic, self-serving reading of the Constitution and American law. Only now, the ACLU has moved from interpreting the Constitution to serve its social-engineering whims to working directly on the beliefs of institutions that dare to think differently from their politically correct lawyers.