[ OUR OPINION ]
THE Boy Scouts of America has run a "Learning for Life" program teaching values and skills in Hawaii public classrooms for 25 years, but the organization's values have come under scrutiny because of its refusal to admit gays as members or scoutmasters. The state Department of Education has recognized the controversy by restricting the program's content. The department was prudent to avoid more drastic measures that could have jeopardized federal funding to schools.
Boy Scouts brings
restrictions on itself
THE ISSUEThe Department of Education has decided to limit Scout activities in public schools.
Learning for Life's stated mission is to "serve others by helping to instill core values in young people and in other ways to prepare them to make ethical choices throughout their lives so they can achieve their full potential." Unfortunately, some of those core values belong in a past era. The Boy Scouts would end much of the controversy and improve its effectiveness by adapting its values to modern society.
The Boy Scouts has been criticized for years because of its refusal to admit homosexuals. The Scout Oath provides that members keep themselves "morally straight" and "clean," which Scout officials interpret as opposition to homosexuality. The oath also inculcates religious values in its members, describing a Scout as "reverent," among other traits.
The U.S. Supreme Court two years ago allowed the Boy Scouts to keep its ban on homosexuals, ruling essentially that the policy was an ingredient of the group's right of expression. However, the gay ban has brought the Boy Scouts under assault across the country for its intolerance, a value that is absent from the Scout Oath.
In defense of the organization, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., successfully tacked onto last year's education bill a provision that would cut off federal funds to any school that denies access to the Boy Scouts. President Bush signed the bill into law.
The funding provision created a dilemma for Hawaii school officials when Scouting for All, a group that advocates admission of gays, girls and atheists into the Boy Scouts, and Mitch Kahle's Hawaii Citizens for Separation of State and Church demanded that the Learning for Life program be thrown off campus. Schools Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto's response was to make various parts of the program voluntary and restrict other elements.
During the school days, Hamamoto wrote in a letter to Kahle, the program must comply with DOE rules against discrimination and regarding separation of church and state. The Boy Scouts also no longer will be allowed to use the program for recruiting or to circulate printed copies of its oath in schools. Student participation in some aspects of the program will be voluntary.
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