Arts and Culture

Judging Boy Scouts

Author Greg Koukl Published on 03/07/2013

The California Judges Association is guilty of the same thing they accuse the Boy Scouts of—discrimination.

Do you know that the California Judges Association wants to remove a judge or any judge from the bench for participating in—guess what? The Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts!

An article in the L.A. Times on the eighth of February is entitled “Boy Scout Issue Splits States Judges.” For goodness sakes, what could be so controversial about a judge being involved in the Boy Scouts? Well, if you think for a moment you will realize that there was a controversial issue with the Boy Scouts a couple of years ago. Let me read the opening of the article to you.

“When Judge John Ferrel’s two sons wanted to join the Boy Scouts he told them to go right ahead, and when Ferrel became personally involved with the troop, car-pooling kids on outings, volunteering to chaperone a hike, he was told by other judges that he was being unethical. When he persisted his critics suggested that, for the sake of appearance, it might be best that he quit the bench. After all, they noted, the Boy Scouts has a discriminatory policy. It bars gays.”

Apparently there is an organization called the California Judges Association that is responsible for the code of judicial conduct relating to its judges, such that if they violate this ethical conduct they can be forced to step down from the bench. Part of the ethical concern has to do with prejudicial behavior or being involved with organizations that support prejudicial behavior, and as a result there has been a new rule of judicial ethics that would ban judges from involvement in any group that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.

A majority of the state’s 1500 judges sided with Ferrel at the recent vote on the same issue a couple of years ago. It was roundly defeated, but the numbers seem to be changing because the political climate is changing and the pressure from those in the politically correct movement is melting.

I want to repeat some comments today that I made a couple of years back during the banks vs. the Boy Scouts uproar. But I’d like to encourage you to look at this issue from a different direction, because a subtle but significant element in this discussion is the implication here that the California Judges Association, in their strong stand against discrimination, is taking the high moral ground on the issue. And that’s what I want to address.

The issue is not whether homosexuality is right or wrong—whether it’s moral or immoral—it has to do with this issue of alleged discrimination, and who, in fact, has the high moral ground. My point is this: This is not about discrimination. That is not what this is really about. It’s about moral clarity, and the reason I say that is the fact that both sides in this dispute—the Boy Scouts and the California Judges Association—are discriminating. Both are forced into making a choice that is dictated by personal conviction. Both choices make a moral statement, and I simply want to make clear what that moral statement is, just in case you miss it in all of the rhetoric that surrounds these kinds of discussions. Both groups are guilty of discrimination.

How can I say that? It’s easy.

I can substantiate it by answering the simple question: What is discrimination? So I cracked open my trusty Webster’s New World Dictionary and I find the definition for discrimination as “the ability to make or perceive distinctions, perceptions or discernment; showing of partiality or prejudice in treatments specifically action or policies directed against the welfare of minority groups.” That’s what the word means.

Now, arguing from the basic meaning of words upon which all coherent communication depends, it is true that the Boy Scouts are discriminating. They are perceiving distinctions. They are exercising discernment. They are showing partiality in treatment. It’s a type of prejudice—a pre-judging. That’s what prejudice is, against a group that is actually not a true minority group, but a group that is—by head count at least—in the minority, homosexuals.

What is the basis of this pre-judgment or discrimination? That is a very important question, and so is the observation that the Boy Scouts are not the only ones discriminating here. So is the California Judges Association.

What is the basis of the Boy Scout’s prejudgment or their discrimination? Is it skin color? No. Is it religious belief? No, of course not. Is it gender or ethnicity? No, not that. The Boy Scouts have simply pre-judged sexual conduct. In other words, they hold that sexual behavior has moral ramifications. Fancy that. What a bizarre thought. They believe that the practice of homosexuality is outside the pale of accepted morality. Now further, this issue is inconsistent with the specific ideals that the Boy Scouts have championed for 89 years. To them homosexual conduct is a moral affront to a sexual perversion, and a scout master practicing homosexuality would be a blight on this organization that promotes virtue and character. I think that’s some pretty solid reasons that are, especially in the context of the organization, at least reasonable.

Yes, the Boy Scouts are discriminatory and they are prejudiced.

But I need to add this. In this sense, every single moral distinction that you make is a type of prejudice. It’s prejudicial to say that adultery is immoral, or that lying is immoral, or that ballot stuffing, or assault is immoral. In other words, it’s a prejudgment, it’s a prejudice that you bring to the moral discussion. And if someone is guilty of ballot stuffing or assault or lying or adultery or something, I have already pre-judged that person as being immoral. That’s what morality is about.

Saying that I think a lot of people are going to feel uncomfortable because they’ve been taught to believe that prejudice, all prejudice, all pre-judgment, all discrimination is inherently bad. I don’t believe that. Let me say that again. Prejudice is not inherently bad. Discrimination is not inherently bad. I think there is an appropriate place for certain kinds of discrimination and an appropriate place for certain types of pre-judging, moral pre-judging. They are pre-judgments because one imports a moral standard that one may have for other reasons and those reasons may be valid.

This brings me naturally to my next point.

Disqualifying judges? Guess what? That’s an act of discrimination. How could it be otherwise? Just as the Boy Scouts have said that in good conscience they could not support a certain point of view—homosexuality—the California Judges Association wants to say that in good conscience they cannot allow judges on the bench who in any way participate in a group which has such a view. That’s discrimination. More than that, that is a prejudice. I call what the California Judges Association is doing discrimination because that’s what it is. They are perceiving distinctions (back to our definition here). They are exercising discernment. They are showing partiality in treatment against a group that is not a true minority group—the Boy Scouts—but a group that is by head count in the minority. They are doing precisely and exactly and completely what the Scouts have done with regards with homosexuality.

It needs to be pointed out that there is not one single discriminating party here. There are two discriminating parties, and I, for one, refuse to let them slip away under the illusion that they’ve taken the moral high ground, because they haven’t. Their action is just as discriminatory as the Boy Scouts—no more, no less, so let’s not cloud the issue with self-righteous accusations.

Someone might say technically they are discriminating, but this is different. I’m glad if you say that. I’m very glad because then you are at least willing to admit that there is discrimination, and then there is discrimination. Not all discrimination is bad. Some of it is appropriate and necessary, and you might be of the belief that this kind of discrimination by the California Association of Judges is fine, it’s good, it’s healthy for us. But what they Boy Scouts is doing is not healthy.

Well, at least now you are starting to move in my league of thinking here, and we are getting away from this kind of cloudy, obfuscated language like we never allow any kind of discrimination, because we always discriminate. It used to be a virtue to be a discriminating person—to be able to make the right kind of distinctions—and now our conversation has shifted away from discrimination per se, as if it’s something evil and only bad people do it and not others—like the Judges Association doesn’t do that. Which kinds of discriminations are morally appropriate and which kinds aren’t? Who is really the bad guy here?

Let me please try my best to bring what is really being said here clearly into focus. I am not arguing about whether homosexuality is moral or immoral. Please note that. I am merely clarifying the nature of the decision that the California Judges Association is attempting to make. What are they really saying? They are saying this that when push comes to shove and they have to make a choice, as in this case, to give their support—morally speaking—to homosexuality rather than to Boy Scouts.

Now that strikes me as a very strange decision. One might argue that homosexuals have the right to pursue the lifestyle of their choice, but why would one choose—if the choice is forced, as it is in this case—to stand with homosexuals rather than with Boy Scouts? You don’t need to say that homosexuality is immoral to say that the values of Boy Scouts as a group are more lofty than the values of homosexuals as a group. It seems to me that if one has to choose up sides and he’s got to throw in his lot with one group that he ought to do it with the group that has the highest ideals and the finest goals and objectives.

So let me ask you a question. What kind of group is the Boy Scouts? These are people who pledge with an oath to help other people at all times, to keep themselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight—which, by the way, is the problematic clause for homosexuals. These are guiding laws to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, and obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Their daily goal is to do a good turn to another person, and as a group they have a long history of building strong and capable leaders with personal integrity and moral strength.

What do we know about homosexuals as a group? Well, in their sexual lives homosexuals abhor restraint. As a group they are promiscuous. Sadomasochism is a way of life for many. When they enter politics they are aggressive, often offensive, frequently abusive, and sometimes violent. They are unique as a social group for how thoroughly and rapidly they spread disease. They champion a life-style that a significant proportion of the psychological community views as maladaptive and destructive. Yes, that’s the case.

Please observe that I am trying to keep moral judgment out of this. These are objective observations that can be supported by statistics. Sure there have been great men that have been homosexuals just like Boy Scouts, but which of those great men who had been homosexuals would attribute their greatness to homosexuality? Yet thousands of great men have looked back at their experience with the Scouts and have credited scouting with their success.

Given that, you tell me which group it make more sense to promote if you must choose between the two? Homosexuality or Scouting? To put it simply, would you rather have your child in a bath-house or a scout tent? I think the answer is kind of obvious.

It’s about time to dispense with the self-righteous, time-minded language about discrimination because both sides are discriminating here. In this case the California Judges Association is attempting discrimination against judges connected with that insidious organization—the Boy Scouts, and rather linking ideological arms with homosexuals, and in so doing they are saying that the ideals of homosexuality are more worthy of their support than the ideals of the Boy Scouts. That’s crazy.

The distinctions here are so astronomical that it makes the California Judges Association position morally absurd. Now that’s their discriminating choice. It’s up to them. But watch this. To further complicate the issue they are not just expressing their opinion, they’re enforcing it. In responding to what they perceive as the judge’s subtle complicity in discrimination against a practice that is deeply morally offensive to the majority, the California Judges Association wants the liberty to discriminate against the Judge. But how are they discriminating against him? By taking his job away.

In other words, you can’t be a judge if you even tolerate the idea that homosexuality is aberrant. That’s what they are saying so they respond to discrimination with discrimination.

The Judges Association is not taking the high moral ground here. It’s about as morally confused and befuddled as one can get, which is a pretty good description of the moral clarity in this country, especially the judiciary. There is precious little clarity.

By the way, did you ever think of this? What are you going to do with judges that belong to churches that believe that homosexuality is immoral? What is happening here is that they are reducing morality to legality. If it’s legal then you have no right to be morally affronted by it. That’s what this is. If it’s legal you can’t say it’s immoral because if you say it’s immoral then you are biasing your legal opinion and you compromise the “perception of fairness.”

Notice also that the issue here isn’t that the judge himself discriminates. That isn’t even the question, or that the judge even believes that such a moral discrimination is appropriate. He could even disagree with the Boy Scouts’ position. The issue here is mere participation in any group that believes these things. That’s enough to cost him his job.

It’s just another one of those things where the culture has been taken captive by utter moral confusion, and because of an agenda they are not capable of seeing what seems to be plain before their own faces. That’s very tragic.