NOTE: I wrote this article way back in 2001 under a pen name. If you are looking for my normal humor, travel, or current interest fare, you probably won’t be interested. Also, if you are a militant homosexual or someone who sympathizes with them you’ll probably hate it. But if you think that something is wrong with America today that needs to be righted, it might be just what you want to hear.
Normally, you’d expect that in a city famous for its theme parks, family neighborhoods, balmy Florida weather, political conservatism, and arguably the NBA’s most buttoned down (if mediocre) franchise, it would be unthinkable to imagine that a vocal subculture of homosexual activists and liberal media ideologues could sustain a prolonged assault on one of America’s most cherished institutions. Indeed, one might imagine that in such a climate the ugly weeds of militant secularism and gay rights extremists would be choked out by the voices of reason, sanity, and community standards. Yet in a day and age in which an (ostensibly) wholesome theme park can be openly invaded by Gay Days participants and in which same-sex “partnerships” are recognized as legitimate by the city’s largest employer, one would be wrong.
This sordid tale begins in August and September of last year, when a series of debates conducted by the Heart of Florida United Way board resulted in a change to the language of its Fund Distribution Policy to deny funding to “any agency that discriminates …on the basis of …sexual orientation.” In subsequent press releases, the United Way was quick to point out that this policy was not a “Boy Scouts issue.” The obvious question is if that were indeed the case, why even bring up the Boy Scouts? The reason became fairly plain when it was discovered that John Lord, the chairman of the board, was pushing the policy because: his son is gay! Although during the ensuing controversy he was forced to step down, the damage was already done, and ultimately the language he sought was adopted. Not that he didn’t have some powerful allies: Kathleen Waltz, another board member, is president of Orlando Sentinel Communications, the parent company of the area’s only local paper and a staunch advocate of gay rights. Just how far she was willing to stoop for the idea of a Gay Scouts organization only became evident later.
The announcement fell on the scouts like a thunderclap. After all, the United Way provided over $300,000 a year to the boys, most of it used for disadvantaged youth programs. Although the policy would not take effect until after the fall 2001 campaign, some kind of drastic restructuring and belt tightening would have to make up for the shortfall. How could they survive without it? Would scouting be forced to capitulate under the grinding jack boot of political correctness? For over 90 years, the Boy Scouts of America required members to recite an oath demanding that they be “morally straight.” How could that be reconciled with homosexuality? The scouts had already fought and won two battles in the Supreme Court granting them the ability to ban homosexuals and atheists. Would they choose to ignore their beliefs now for monetary gain? The United Way didn’t have to wait long for an answer. Responding to the increasingly shrill demands of the gay rights mob, local Scouting Council President Tico Perez calmly declared, “Our policies are what they are. Compromise will have to be reached on the United Way side.” Score one for Stonewall Perez.
Unfortunately, such backbone was a rare commodity in the rest of the social services community. By December, in a display of ignominy not equaled since the Bay of Pigs, every United Way member agency, all 78 of them, including the Girl Scouts, day care centers, foster grandparent programs, and the YMCA had already acquiesced to the demands of the board and accepted the terms of the unconditional surrender offered by their masters. All accept the Boy Scouts. Making matters worse were the usual liberal suspects lining up behind the United Way: radio shows hosted local gay leaders while the local Pravda (Orlando Sentinel) printed editorials by such disinterested figures as J. Gordon Arkin, chairman of the National Conference on Community and Justice, who offered up this friendly advice: “We urge the national and local Boy Scouts to be inclusive, and we stand ready to assist them in any process to move in that direction.” Just what direction the scouts might move under the tutelage of Mr. Arkin is clearly not what Lord Baden-Powell had in mind when he founded the scouts in 1907. Feeling their strategy a success, the arrogance of the board members was palpable, as evidenced by this little bit of condescension from Kathryn Hoeck, Orlando attorney and board member: “based on the fact…that it’s only one agency that is…being affected, the board will continue to back the policy.” In other words, it’s only the Boy Scouts. Who cares?
Well, as it turns out, a lot of people care. John Provance, president of the United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties, declined a proposed merger with his counterparts in Orlando because of the brewing fiasco. “We said we didn’t have a problem,” Provance rightly observed. “Why take the chance?” Why indeed? And in a surprisingly bold statement for a prominent local businessman, timeshare baron David Siegel, a board member, opined that “I would have a problem giving support to the United Way if they’re not going to support the Boy Scouts,” a sentiment that was effectively shared by another area heavyweight, Amway founder and billionaire Rich DeVos. Popular opinion, as evidenced by letters to the newspaper editor, calls to the local radio stations, and informal polls, was heavily in favor of continued funding for the scouts as well, at least outside of Disney World and the gay enclaves of town. It seems that a lot of people felt like Mr. Siegel. Decent people who, when asked to contribute to the United Way, opened their hearts and wallets to give cheerfully every year, innocently believing that such an altruistic organization was apolitical. Now they had been educated. They had seen that, in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity,” the United Way was petty enough to deny needy children a chance to sleep under the stars and start their first camp fire. The idea deeply offended their sense of decency and fairness. And they began to make themselves heard.
By January, it was obvious to sobered board officials that they needed to try to end the controversy, and quickly. A list of nonprofit agencies would have to be prepared by March for its fall 2001 fund raising effort. And the longer the imbroglio dragged on, the more likely the public would remember it in October. Already, fallout over the controversy had caused the Dr. Phillips foundation, a multi-million dollar contributor, to threaten the withdrawal of all future contributions to the United Way. Other local charities would almost certainly follow their lead. The tide was turning, and it was threatening to ground the boat. A meeting with the Boy Scouts was proposed at the end of the month to hopefully produce a face saving-compromise that would also preserve their cherished agenda of “diversity and inclusiveness.” Even so, board members were defiant, pledging that they would “not be pressured into changing (our) policy because one or two funders asked us to do so.” These were brave words, not matched by stout hearts.
We may never learn how many fragile egos were bruised during that late January tête-à-tête, but on February 8, the Heart of Florida United Way Board of Directors issued a press release indicating that the Boy Scouts of America could “receive direct designations from donors to the 2001 United Way campaign,” a position that up until then was anathema to the board, although the scouts would “not be eligible for United Way funding from undesignated contributions.” This complete reversal of the board’s previous statements was (predictably) hailed as a compromise. Obviously, when faced with the real possibility of widespread contributor defections, the board decided that lucre trumped ideology. So, the scouts won the battle, but the war could be lost due to the undesignated funds clause and a public with a notoriously short memory. Or it could be lost in a sneak attack that made Pearl Harbor look like fair play.
Enter, on Valentine’s Day, Kathleen M. Waltz. Exit decency, honor, and charity. In a move only the Grinch could applaud, Ms. Waltz refused a request from the scouts for funds targeted at children who could not afford to join the organization from her own Sentinel Santa Fund, money collected during the Christmas season for the needy, and which the scouts had received in years past. This decision, coming as it did less than one week after the board’s capitulation on the gays in scouting debacle, could only be rightly construed as a vindictive means of revenge for the scout’s victory, with poor children suffering the unfortunate collateral damage. This kind of behavior in a conservative might be labeled mean-spirited. This kind of behavior in a liberal is buried in a self-serving article in the Local and State section of the newspaper that you own.
So how did the scouts make out this year? “Scouts may see a windfall” was the gratifying March headline of Ms. Waltz’s own Sentinel. It seems the citizens of Orlando decided that the scouts were worth supporting-and gave them more money than they asked for in their budget! But the news got even better when the aforementioned Dr. Phillips Foundation ponied up a $225,000 pledge over the next three years to be used for funding a scout endowment. Sometimes, the good guys do win after all.
I won’t pretend to be an objective observer of this latest skirmish in the politically correct war between, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Fleming, Middle America and the grotesque coalition of misfits, ne’er do wells, professional minorities, and liberal elites that compose the vast bulk of our college faculties, news media staffs, government offices, and, to a distressingly great extent, our corporate boardrooms. I am the proud father of a First Class Boy Scout and the Assistant Scoutmaster of my troop. I do not believe that my son should be coerced into a tent with an avowed homosexual during a time in his life when he is becoming sexually inquisitive just to satisfy the demands of the barren intelligentsia that dominate the ruling class of America. Nor do I believe that a gay man makes a good role model for adolescents, and frankly I question the motives of a gay man involved in the Boy Scouts in the first place. If I sound homophobic, so be it. I simply don’t care what label is applied where my son’s welfare is involved.
What lessons can be learned from this saga? One, your charitable contributions are put to better use locally and directly than through a corporate middle man. Two, common people of good will can beat the forces of liberalism when the choice is crystalline. Three, compromise based on extortion is the modern means of diplomacy. Four, the ruling elite is as out of touch with the average American as Wall Street is with Flyover Country. Five, the liberals never give up. The scouts had already beaten them in the Supreme Court (twice) and that didn’t stop them. They’ll be back again, trying to destroy the host society. Be prepared.
Fine piece. I remember that controversy. Appreciated your last “lessons learned” paragraph. Spot on.
Thanks as always, Becky…:)
I wrote a piece that was published years ago in a legal publication in San Francisco, when an appellate justice wrote his piece saying that all judges that backed the Boy Scouts practices should come out of the closet. I have since given up on the issue because it is not kosher to reason about it anymore. The machine of Political Corretness is grinding on. I have no problem with homosexuals – they did not choose what they are – and I can count some in my family. Our culture just has not figured out how to let them be without messing other people choices. We separated the sexes to avoid chaos – but don’t know what to make of a third choice and which places to put it in.
BTW: do you still live in Medellin
Well said. I don’t have a “problem” with homosexuals either. I object to their insistence on inclusion, however. I believe in the right of free association.
No, I live now in Satellite Beach. I know I was a little harsh on Medellin. Truly it does have a cosmopolitan feel. I just felt like some publications were romanticizing it to “sell” Medellin to dumb gringos, and I wanted to tell the other side. 🙂