I can always count on the anti-homosexual crowd to boost my numbers. Thanks, guys! You Christians really come out for the gays. My piece at TIME.com was the second-most emailed earlier this morning, I’m proud to report. But, perplexingly, I haven’t noticed a similar bump for my stories on topics like sex trafficking or the injustice of poor sanitation. Come on, folks! Spread the outrage around a little more!
In all seriousness, I appreciate the dialogue. I really do. Here’s an exchange:
“Saw your comment on Boy Scouts. As a grandstading idealist that you seem to be, it was well written. I don’t really care if you think you are right since nothing I say will change your liberal point of view. The real issue is that no private institution should have to knuckle under to societal pressure. There is and always has been full transparencey in the BSA. Up front, what you see is what you get. Why is it that this institution has to have homosexuality crammed down it’s throat like the rest of society. Are churches next? Why is the definition of morality by the BSA not good enough? What makes it that the definition of morality can only come from journalists and liberal minded people and be deemed acceptable? If homosexuals want to choose that life, why can’t this private organization choose differently. Our freedoms under the constitution make this choice possible. Private institutions should have the right to have standards and uphold them.”
Thank you for not calling me hateful names. That is refreshing today, though it is always puzzling the way so many folks who disagree with me start their comments with all kinds of disclaimers about what kind of person I am and how little I am capable of listening/changing. It often feels like a projection of the commenter’s reality, not mine. In any case, you are correct that I am about 75 percent liberal, though relatively conservative on certain issues that would surprise you, personal responsibility, among them.
But to your point: You seem to misunderstand the purpose of my post at TIME.com. I agree 100 percent with you that the BSA should not have to “knuckle under” to societal pressure. They should act with their conscience, as we all should. BSA has constitutionally protected rights and I have no wish to infringe on them. Needless to say — I hope it’s “needless to say” — there are some limits to constitutional protection. I doubt very much either of us would defend the BSA’s right to promote murder, for example, nor would we easily imagine a robust defense for excluding short people or albino children. However, I agree with you that, “private institutions should have the right to have standards and uphold them.” I said that in writing and believe it. But I hope you are not suggesting that I do not have the “right” to exert any pressure I want on any institution of my choosing – again, “within reason.” This is the point of opinion pieces, commercial boycotts, protest marches, online petitions, and other forms of civil discourse. A healthy society thrives and indeed depends on the transparent airing of ideas. This can sometimes take the form of pressure. It’s how markets work, as well. Ideas need to be vetted in the marketplace, just like any other public good. There’s nothing wrong with this reality! In fact, your and my right to exercise our convictions depends heavily not only on our legally-protected rights but on a culture that values such a democratic and open enterprise and doesn’t cry “foul” the minute people speak out about things someone doesn’t like… So, if you think I’m crazy, fine. Say so. (As you seem to be doing!) In what way is my opinion shoving anything down the boy scouts’ throats? They are voting for this policy on homosexuality today, not me. And by the way, I’m not advocating lawlessness, though there is a noble history of civil disobedience in our country that oppressed peoples have emulated worldwide; I’m just defending my right to voice my moral code where I choose. No one is “cramming” anything down the BSA’s throat, and if the BSA, and other similarly-minded organizations, can’t tolerate even a mild challenge to their views, then they must not have much of a defense for them. Our astonishingly vibrant society works because we have a set of constitutionally protected rights, within a sometimes messy framework of church/state separation, that are bestowed on us all. My most cherished right is the ability to engage in dialogue and vociferous debate without fear that I will be locked up, beaten, or killed for my views. We should embrace this right and not try to mock or dilute it with silly fears of coercion. The BSA has the same backbone the rest of us do; it can — and will and should — do what it feels is best. And I will continue to do what I feel is best: to exert pressure, with civility and sometimes with my wallet, on places where I see injustice or irrationality. This process enabled women and children and people of color to be treated as more than chattle in our country. It’s how disabled people and the mentally ill came to be seen as worthy of compassion and respect. Let’s not forget that our society moves forward, and not only backward, from the views and, yes, pressures of people with conflicting viewpoints. I would hate to live in a world where we couldn’t champion the right to speak our minds. Please don’t mistake this for not allowing an organization to “choose differently” Choose away! And defend your choice, as I’m defending mine. I believe the traditional view of masculinity espoused (and enforced) within the BSA forces men (and women) into a mold that doesn’t fit everyone. This rigidity – which I believe reflects a lot of biblical cherry-picking and unkindness – is harmful to society. I hope one day the BSA and other private institutions will agree with me. In the meantime, I’ll keep speaking and pressuring and I hope you’ll do the same for what you believe. Thank you.”