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On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth

An excerpt from – On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth

The “Problem” of God in the Boy Scouts

In April of 1985, the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America ruled that a fifteen-year-old Scout, Paul Trout of Charlottesville, Virginia, “should be expelled from the Scouts because he doesn’t believe in God.” Apparently, Trout mentioned in his interview with the advancement committee for his promotion to Life that he does not believe in God (or maybe that he does not believe in God as a Supreme Being, a distinction that makes a difference). Carl Hunter, director of the Stonewall Jackson Area Council, was quoted in the press as saying, “The Scout Law requires a young man to be absolutely loyal to God and country and to be reverent toward God. You can’t do that if you don’t believe in a Supreme Being.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took up Trout’s case, but by October the national organization reversed itself and readmitted Trout. The organization’s explanation was that Trout had said merely that he “did not believe in God as a supreme being,” and they chose to interpret his views as a disagreement over the definition of God. “So the organization’s national executive board decided to delete from its literature any definition of God . . . while reaffirming the Scout Oath’s declaration of duty to God.” I shall return to this issue of defining God, but let me move ahead to 1991.

By the summer of 1991, the BSA had two more lawsuits on its hands. The families of eight-year-old Mark Walsh of Chicago and of nine-year-old twins Michael and William Randall of Anaheim, California, had launched separate suits after their sons had been expelled from Cub Scout troops for saying they did not believe in God. The Cub Scouts is the organization created in 1930 by the BSA for younger boys, aged eight to eleven, with the young boys organized into “dens” supervised by a “den mother” and a larger unit, the “Cub Pack,” usually led by a male pack leader.

The BSA had finessed the Trout case by framing it as a mere dispute over the meaning of the word “God,” but these suits pitted avowed atheists against the BSA requirement that members believe in God. The National Council’s stance was that the BSA is a private group that can admit and exclude members by criteria particular to the organization. “Also supporting the status quo,” explained a New York Times story, “are the Church of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, which formed the first Scouting council in America in 1913 and which remains the largest single Scout sponsor, and the Roman Catholic Church, the fourth-largest Scout sponsor. The two churches, which together support more than a quarter of all Scout troops, contend that the Boy Scouts has every right to keep certain people out, whether as Scouts, volunteers, or staff members.”

Public schools, it seems, sponsor the largest number of Scouts, which provided fuel for the plaintiffs’ view that the BSA is a public organization. But the public schools “do not speak with the unified voice of the Mormon or Catholic churches,” notes the New York Times reporter, who also points to a basic contradiction in the BSA practices regarding religious belief. “Officials say the organization was founded for boys who believe in God and should remain true to those principles,” he writes. “But while the organization accepts Buddhists, who do not believe in a Supreme Being, and Unitarians, who seek insight from many traditions but pointedly avoid setting a creed, it does not tolerate people who are openly atheist, agnostic, or unwilling to say in that Scout oath they will serve God.”

In fact, it was precisely this contradiction that the twins’ father, James Grafton Randall, acting as their attorney in the case, hammered as he cross-examined witnesses for the organization. In a decision with significant implications, Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard O. Frazee Sr. ruled in June of 1992 that the Boy Scouts could not exclude the twins “because of their beliefs, or lack of them.” More shocking still, the state supreme court refused to hear a petition from the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Meanwhile, the Girl Scouts of America faced a similar challenge. In November of 1992, James Randall filed a suit against the Girl Scouts on behalf of a six-year-old San Diego area girl and her father, challenging the Girl Scouts’ pledge to “serve God” as a “religious test oath” that violates the Constitution. Within a year, the Girl Scouts had changed their pledge, permitting girls to replace “God” with “words they deem more appropriate” while reciting the Girl Scout Promise. “The group’s leaders said the measure . . . acknowledges growing religious and ethnic diversity among the nation’s 2.6 million Girl Scouts,” explained a newspaper account of the national convention that voted overwhelmingly for the new policy. “In regions with large Asian and American Indian populations, the group has had trouble recruiting girls whose religious tradition does not include a Judeo-Christian concept of God. . . .”

The Girl Scouts found a comfortable solution to the dilemmas of religious diversity, choosing a route that would make the organization open to every girl. What kept the Boy Scouts from doing the same thing? When reporters bothered asking boys themselves what they thought about excluding boys from the organization because they didn’t believe in God, the reporters found “mild to strong support for changes.” And this is what I would expect from my long association with the Scouts, both as a Scout and as a researcher observing a troop for over twenty years. The “professional Scouters,” the bureaucrats who work for the national office of the Boy Scouts of America, feel compelled to speak authoritatively about what is good or bad for children and adolescents without actually asking any young people what they think about it.

So why did the National Council dig in its heels on this issue? What was so much at stake that the Boy Scouts could not follow the example of the Girl Scouts and move to accommodate religious diversity?

Part of the answer lies in the historical connection between Christianity and an aggressive version of masculinity. It is useful to examine a bit of history on this connection. And perhaps the best way to get at this history is to look briefly at the five main figures who came together to create the Boy Scouts of America—Ernest Thompson Seton, Daniel Carter Beard, Edgar M. Robinson, John L. Alexander, and James E. West—for these men embodied much of the ambivalence and tension that connected Christianity with masculinity at the turn of the twentieth century.

Born in Victorian England (1860) and raised in Canada, Seton established himself as an artist, naturalist, and author of animal stories before he embarked on his boys’ work near the end of the century. In the 1890s, Seton began to formulate his “Woodcraft Idea,” a theory for youth work based on the Darwinian instinct psychology of G. Stanley Hall. The model woodcrafter, thought Seton, was the American Indian, and in 1898 Seton (at the urging of Rudyard Kipling) began casting his Woodcraft Idea into the form of a novel. Over the next few years, Seton worked simultaneously on the novel, Two Little Savages: Being the Adventures of Two Boys Who Lived as Indians and What They Learned (1903), and on a handbook for the organization he envisioned. In 1902, Ladies Home Journal agreed to establish a new Department of American Woodcraft for Boys, helping Seton launch his organization by publishing a Seton article each month. The appearance of Two Little Savages in 1903 and The Red Book, or How to Play Indian in 1904 cemented Seton’s national reputation as a leader in youth work, and he was asked to chair the committee that met in 1910 to found the Boy Scouts of America. Seton was made the first Chief Scout of the organization, and he wrote large portions of the first Handbook for Boys (1911), a manual that resembles the Birch Bark Roll as much as or more than it does the first British handbook written by Lord Robert Baden-Powell. Seton increasingly felt alienated from the Boy Scout leadership, accusing the New York businessmen and bankers in their numbers of abandoning the Woodcraft Idea he had in mind as the ideological foundation for the movement and as the feature that distinguished it so well from Baden-Powell’s militaristic model. In 1915, the conflict came to a head over the fact that Seton had never become an American citizen. The position of Chief Scout was abolished, and amid very bitter public exchanges Seton left the Boy Scouts to redevote himself to his Woodcraft Indians.

Two aspects of Seton’s thought in this period are relevant to our understanding his conception of God. First, Seton looked primarily to American Indian religions as the model for spirituality and ethics. Seton consulted written documents and live informants to distill “The Indian’s Creed.” Whereas “the redman” believed in many gods, he accepted “one Supreme Spirit.” To prove his thesis that the “redman’s religion” could revitalize twentieth-century white society, Seton described in detail the “redman’s” traits: he was reverent, clean, chaste, brave, thrifty, cheerful, obedient, kind, hospitable, truthful, honorable, and temperate, the model of physical excellence. In short, Seton embraced American Indian religions more than traditional European faiths, and he was as likely to hold up the famed Shawnee chief Tecumseh as a model of spiritual manhood as he was Christ. So, while it is accurate to say that Seton believed in God, he believed in a Supreme Being far from the one portrayed by most Western religions, and I think it is unlikely that he would have wanted to exclude from the Boy Scouts any boy or man who expressed doubts about the traditional understanding of God required by the present organization.

But Seton left the organization. What of Beard and the other founders? Daniel Carter Beard was no more conventional in his religious views than was Seton. Beard’s childhood in Cincinnati prepared him for the same wedding of art and nature we see in Seton’s thought. His father, James N. Beard, was a prominent artist, and his mother’s family (the Carters) enjoyed great entrepreneurial success in the Ohio Valley. The Swedenborgian theology of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, provided the moral canopy over the artistic and entrepreneurial values that Beard learned in his childhood home, as both the Beards and the Carters had converted to this faith early in the nineteenth century. After formal training in both engineering and art, Beard gained his fame in New York as an illustrator for St. Nicholas, a magazine for children, and compiled a series of articles he wrote and illustrated into his first book, the classic American Boys’ Handy Book: What to Do and How to Do It.

In 1886, Beard joined Henry George’s single-tax movement and wrote his own single-tax novel, Moonblight. By 1889, Beard’s fame led Samuel Clemens, writing as Mark Twain, to seek him out to illustrate A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, an assignment Beard relished. The politics and morality of the novel appealed to Beard, and he was especially attracted to Twain’s theme of sham and the relationship between appearance and character. Beard’s illustrations for the novel became controversial because of his use of contemporary public figures (such as Jay Gould) as models for his characters as well as his explicit attacks on the church and the capitalists. Twain was pleased with Beard’s Connecticut Yankee illustrations, but many critics saw the illustrations as propaganda, and Beard was blacklisted as an illustrator.

Frustrated with the political and economic arenas of reform, Beard returned to boys’ work in 1905. William E. Annis, the new owner and publisher of Recreation, hired Beard as the magazine’s editor. In addition to the conservationist agenda they shared, including the conservation of American Indian cultures, Beard and Annis wanted to use the monthly magazine to launch a youth movement. The July 1905 issue introduced The Sons of Daniel Boone, a new department of the magazine. One purpose of the new organization was to enlist young people in the magazine’s conservation work. But equally important to Beard was the movement’s promise to promote “manliness” through democratic organization (boys would create local chapters called “forts”), outdoor fun, woodcraft (the study of nature), and handicraft (the making of things as first illustrated in his Handy Book). There was no central bureaucracy for the movement, and Beard’s monthly articles and the other material he wrote were all that linked the local chapters. By 1908, however, twenty thousand boys were members of the Sons of Daniel Boone.

Conflicts within the organization led Beard to sever his ties with Recreation in 1906 and join Woman’s Home Companion, where he continued writing for The Sons of Daniel Boone. Beard’s clashes with the women editors of the magazine led him to resign in 1909 and use Pictorial Review as the new magazine for promotion of his youth-movement ideas. A legal battle ensued with Woman’s Home Companion over the rights to the name “The Sons of Daniel Boone,” and when the parties finally settled, the magazine kept the name and Beard kept the rights to his articles. Beard chose Young Pioneers as the name for his new movement and filled the movement’s handbook with stories of pioneer heroes like Davy Crockett and Johnny Appleseed. These movements were in place in 1910 when Beard joined Seton and others to establish the Boy Scouts of America.

If neither Seton nor Beard was religious by the usual, mainstream standards in 1910, certainly we can say that Edgar M. Robinson, John L. Alexander, and James E. West embraced the Protestant “muscular Christianity” that linked physical fitness and moral rectitude at the end of the nineteenth century. Robinson and Alexander came from successful careers organizing youth work for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), and West, the first chief executive of the BSA, also had YMCA experience as well as a law degree. But even in their most religious moments, Robinson and Alexander and West resembled Seton and Beard in their greater concern that boys acquire the virtues of manhood. Alexander wrote the “Chivalry” chapter for the first Handbook, and a long paragraph on “A Boy Scout’s Religion” is the only mention of religion in the entire Handbook. “The Boy Scouts of America maintain that no boy can grow into the best kind of citizenship,” explains Alexander,

without recognizing his obligation to God. . . . The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe, and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings is necessary to the best type of citizenship and is a wholesome thing in the education of the growing boy. . . . The Boy Scouts of America therefore recognize the religious element in the training of a boy, but it is absolutely non-sectarian in its attitude toward that religious training.

Alexander goes on to explain that the Boy Scouts leaves religious training to the boy’s own religious organizations; that is not the work of the Boy Scouts.

A careful reader of Boy Scout Handbooks, Scoutmaster Handbooks, and other Scout literature from the founding through the 1940s would have to conclude, I think, that insisting upon an aggressive religious stance was not high on the BSA’s agenda. Of course, it was true that the Boy Scout Oath created by the 1910 committee to “Americanize” elements borrowed from Baden-Powell’s movement had boys promise to do their best to do their duty to God, but the first Handbook‘s rhetoric around religion is remarkably subdued. The explanation of the twelfth point of the Scout Law, “A Scout is Reverent,” emphasizes both duty and tolerance: “He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion.” Nor does this rather relaxed approach change in the second (1911), third (1915), or fourth (“revised,” 1927) editions.

It is only in the fifth edition (1948) that the authors of the Handbook began to expand their explanation of “duty to God” and “A Scout is Reverent.” For example, “Your Duty to God”:

You worship God regularly with your family in your church or synagogue. You try to follow the religious teachings that you have been taught, and you are faithful in your church school duties, and help in church activities. Above all you are faithful to Almighty God’s Commandments.Most great men in history have been men of deep religious faith. Washington knelt in the snow to pray at Valley Forge. Lincoln always sought Divine guidance before each important decision. Be proud of your religious faith.

Remember in doing your duty to God, to be grateful to Him. Whenever you succeed in doing something well, thank Him for it. Sometimes when you look up into the starlit sky on a quiet night, and feel close to Him—thank Him as the Giver of all good things.

One way to express your duty and your thankfulness to God is to help others, and this too, is a part of your Scout promise.

The expanded discussion of the twelfth point of the Scout Law also lays down much more explicit instructions on what it takes for a Scout to be “reverent”:

Reverence is that respect, regard, consideration, courtesy, devotion, and affection you have for some person, place or thing because it is holy. The Scout shows true reverence in two principal ways. First, you pray to God, you love God and you serve Him. Secondly, in your everyday actions you help other people, because they are made by God to God’s own likeness. You and all men are made by God to God’s own likeness. You and all men are important in the sight of God because God made you. The “unalienable rights” in our historic Declaration of Independence, come from God.That is why you respect others whose religion and customs may differ from yours. Some fellows think they are smart by telling stories or making fun of people of other religions or races. All your life you will be associating with people of other beliefs and customs. It is your duty to respect these people for their beliefs and customs, and to live your own.

We can see in this passage an elaboration of what was introduced first in Alexander’s 1911 linking of belief in God with “the best type of citizenship.” We see the wedding of religion and democratic ideology, of religion and patriotism. And we also see a continuation of tolerance and of what earlier Handbooks called “practical religion”—that is, the demonstration of duty and reverence to God by helping others.

It was also in this 1948 edition of the Handbook, used throughout the 1950s, that the Religious Awards Program appeared. The program required cooperation between the BSA and certain religious denominations, as it was the minister, priest, or rabbi who certified that the boy had performed the duties and service worthy of the award. The 1948 Handbook described religious medals for Roman Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Lutheran, and Buddhist boys and a general Protestant medal called the God and Country Award.

The Boy Scouts of America hit its golden age, both literally and figuratively, in the late 1950s; 1960 marked the golden anniversary of the organization. The demographics of the 1950s still have a lot to do with how the Boy Scouts thinks about itself. The baby boom was one feature of the 1950s, as the first wave of children born in that cohort (1946-62) pressed hard on the 1950s institutions aimed at serving children. I know because I am a member of that cohort. Born in July of 1945, I was eight years old when I joined the Cub Scouts in 1953. My third grade class had to meet in a one-room “portable” classroom because the South Florida school districts could not build new elementary schools fast enough to handle the suburban baby boomers. White, suburban, middle-class—these were the demographic features of the baby boom kids who flocked to Scouting in the 1950s. Being a good mother in the 1950s meant that you stayed home to raise the children, which included carting the kids to Scouts, dance lessons, Little League practice, and more. An organization that originally aspired to reach urban, working-class, and immigrant kids had become by 1960 predominantly white and middle-class.

The impact of the “symbolic demography” of the 1950s was just as significant. By symbolic demography, I mean the web of symbols and meanings that characterized the mainly mass-mediated narratives of American public culture. The rise of television in the 1950s had a profound effect on the symbolic demography of the period, as television generated for the middle-class audience a great number of narratives about “American life” and “the American way,” from the family sitcoms like Father Knows Best, Ozzie and Harriet, and Leave It to Beaver to Cold War narratives as obvious as I Led Three Lives and as subtly coded as Gunsmoke.

In many ways, the 1950s version of America and the 1950s version of the Boy Scouts of America are fixed in the minds of the white middle class, regardless of the realities of differences in the ways Americans experienced American life from 1945 to 1960. The mass media invented an American middle-class way of life, a way “we never were,” as one historian puts it. But it is this fiction, the 1950s version of middle-class family life, that has become “normative,” that has become the “traditional” way of life to which all subsequent experiences have been compared.

Now consider the role of religion in this public culture of the United States in the 1950s. By any measure, Americans in the 1950s were a “religious” people. Membership in organized churches and other sects grew from 64.5 million in 1940 to 114.6 million in 1960. Public opinion polls consistently showed that the vast majority of Americans believed in God and prayed to him daily. Religious leaders like Reinhold Niebuhr, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, and Billy Graham became well-known figures in the public culture, and Protestant minister Norman Vincent Peale’s 1952 best-seller, The Power of Positive Thinking, captured the optimistic tone and style of much of the public religion.

Religion in the 1950s was tangled with national and international politics. Religion had become an important marker distinguishing between the Communists and the Western democracies. “They” were “godless communists,” while we were religious. The World Council of Churches was founded in 1948, but Cold War politics soon disrupted that ecumenical move. The National Council of Churches was founded in the United States in 1950, and that coalition of mainly Protestant, mainline, and liberal denominations represented about thirty million church members. It is no accident that sociologist Robert Bellah published his first writings on “the American Civil Religion” in 1967. Although Bellah sees evidence of this particular blend of Protestant Christianity and Enlightenment political theory in earlier public narratives, such as Lincoln’s second inaugural address, it was living in Eisenhower’s America of the 1950s that made so clear to everyone the ways Protestant Christianity and Cold War ideology became tangled in the definitions of America. Even writers on Jews and Catholics, for example, noted how acculturation to the United States “protestantized” other religions. And this was the period when “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” was added to our money. The American flag, the civil religion, and patriotism entwined in the 1950s. The American Civil Religion enjoyed a powerful consensus in the public culture, even if people could not agree wholly on the political practices implied by that religion. Martin Luther King Jr. could invoke the Civil Religion as well as anyone, and the Civil Rights movement (which, in many ways, began with the Montgomery bus boycott late in 1955) drew upon religious energy from the start.

The Boy Scouts of America, that quintessential organization of 1950s America, proudly embraced this civil religion. The Boy Scouts was “nondenominational,” to be sure, and there were religious badges representing each major religious group. But “nondenominational” could not include agnosticism or atheism in 1950s America, for “nondenominational” meant only that no one religious denomination could impose its theology and practices upon the organization. Boys from all faiths were free to join the organization, but “faith” was the key. A boy had to have a faith, for atheism—and probably agnosticism—was the characteristic of Communists, our sworn enemies.

The sixth edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, published in 1959, reflects the public religion of the 1950s in its revisions of the passages explaining “duty to God” and “reverent.” “Your parents and religious leaders teach you to know and love God, and the ways in which you can serve him,” explains the text about the Oath. “By following these teachings in your daily life you are doing your duty to God as a Scout.” The passage on “A Scout is Reverent” states the Civil Religion perfectly and is worth quoting in full:

Take a Lincoln penny out of your pocket and look at it. What do you see on it? Just above Lincoln’s head are the words “In God We Trust.” Twelve little letters on our humblest coin. Not only as individuals, but as a nation, too, we are committed to live and work in harmony with God and His plan.Most great men in history have been men of deep religious faith who have shown their convictions in deed. Washington knelt in the snow to pray at Valley Forge. Lincoln always sought divine guidance before making an important decision. Eisenhower prayed to God before taking his oath of office as President of the United States. These men had many things in common: love of the out-of-doors, human kindness, and an earnest vigor in working with God in helping make a better world.

You are reverent as you serve God in your everyday actions and are faithful in your religious obligations as taught you by your parents and spiritual leaders.

All your life you will be associated with people of different faiths. In America we believe in religious freedom. That is why we respect others whose religion may differ from ours, although for reason of conscience we do not agree with them.

This passage effectively conflates duty to God and country as a single duty, the individual’s duty to both but also the nation’s duty to God’s plan. The authors of the Handbook link Washington, Lincoln, and Eisenhower as practitioners of the nation’s public religion, while still urging tolerance for sectarian differences under the larger umbrella of a public religion. Tellingly, this passage also revives a 1950s version of “muscular Christianity.” The talk about “love of the out-of-doors” and about “an earnest vigor in working with God” echoes the nineteenth-century belief that a physically vigorous, aggressive masculinity would nourish and strengthen the spiritual and moral dimension of the boy’s character.

By 1960 the Boy Scouts had two powerful visual icons at work reinforcing the role of religious faith and reverence in the socialization of American boys. First was the artwork of Norman Rockwell. Rockwell began his association with the Boy Scouts very early. In 1912, the national office had acquired Boys’ Life, a magazine that had been created by an eighteen-year-old in Providence, Rhode Island. Shortly thereafter, another eighteen-year-old, Norman Rockwell, began working for Boys’ Life editor Edward Cave as illustrator for the magazine, for books, for Boy Scout calendars from 1925 into the 1970s, and for the covers of the 1927, 1959, and 1979 editions of the Handbook and the 1959 edition of the Handbook for Scoutmasters. William Hillcourt’s generously illustrated book on Norman Rockwell’s work on behalf of the Boy Scouts tells the details of this association, details I shall not recount here. My point is that through Saturday Evening Post covers, his numerous illustrations of the Boy Scouts, and especially his “Four Freedoms” paintings used to sell war bonds during World War II, Norman Rockwell had become by 1960 the definitive illustrator of the American Civil Religion. In his caption for Rockwell’s 1950 painting “Our Heritage,” Hillcourt writes that in this calendar painting “Norman combined ‘duty to God’ and ‘duty to country’ in a single picture. There was an extra significance to this painting: that year more than fifty thousand Scouts took part in the Second National Boy Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where Washington has prayed during the dark days of the winter of 1777-78.”

Indeed, Valley Forge was the site for both the 1950 and the 1957 National Jamborees, only the second and fourth giant gatherings of Boy Scouts from all over the United States. The national office chose as the visual image for these jamborees a profile of George Washington, kneeling in prayer and asking God’s help for the soldiers huddled in the cold at Valley Forge. Of course, Washington was also praying for God’s blessing on the whole enterprise of the American Revolution. The image brilliantly condensed both the religious and the political elements of the American Civil Religion in the 1950s and even contained what I imagine was an unintended pun on Cold War. This official logo of the jamboree appeared on patches, jackets, coffee mugs, and any number of other memorabilia available to Scouts.

The national office of the Boy Scouts of America has never shaken off the symbolic demography of the 1950s. In 1992, the Anaheim twins’ agnostic lawyer father, James Randall, told a Los Angeles Times reporter: “It’s like dealing with the 1950s all over again—or at least all the bad parts of the 1950s,” and the same reporter found that many “Scout elders say their adolescent experiences with compasses, intricate knots and Scouting comrades left deep impressions on them. ‘It was one of the most meaningful times of my life,’ said Edward C. Jacobs, once a teen-age Scout in Missouri, now Scout executive in Los Angeles, the country’s second-largest council.” Here lies the significance of the actual and symbolic demographics of the 1950s—that so many adults running the organization were Scouts or young Scout leaders in the 1950s.

Repeated attempts to move the organization beyond the white middle class, many of them good-faith attempts, have met with little success and occasional scandal. The 1970s move of the national headquarters from New Brunswick, New Jersey, to Irving, Texas, a suburb lying between Dallas and Fort Worth, symbolizes the symbolic demography of the movement. The national organization has chosen sides in the culture wars.

Talk of the culture wars has entered public discourse and everyday conversations to such an extent that most Americans have a pretty good sense of what this phrase means. This is a war over values and moral authority. As James Davison Hunter, one of the best writers on the wars, puts it, we are witnessing “polarizing impulses” from two camps. For one group of Americans, the “orthodox,” moral authority rests on “an external, definable, and transcendent authority,” and this camp holds the cultural conservatives and moral traditionalists. For the other group, the “progressives,” moral authority is not so fixed, as this camp tends “to resymbolize historic faiths according to the prevailing assumptions of contemporary life.” These are the “liberals” and “cultural progressives.” These categories cross and confound faith traditions, including secularists, who can be found in both camps. For Hunter and a number of other commentators on the culture wars, it is this new element of identity—not gender, not race, not social class, not religious tradition—that becomes the best predictor of a person’s politics.

So for all these reasons the Boy Scouts of America could not compromise on the atheists’ challenge at the end of the twentieth century. It does not matter that the founders of the movement, including Baden-Powell himself, had little interest in promoting religion beyond a very generalized belief in a Supreme Being, a fact that should make it as easy for the Boy Scouts as the Girl Scouts to change the oath (in practice, if not in wording) from a belief in God to a belief in a Supreme Being. The religious conservatives who control the national office of the Boy Scouts see themselves as important troops in the culture wars. If religion, masculinity, and citizenship are as tangled as the rhetoric of the Boy Scouts and others seems to make them and if, as so many historians and social critics have suggested, there is evidence everywhere of a “crisis in white masculinity,” a status revolution in which white males feel like the beleaguered class, then it makes sense that the men running the Boy Scouts see the atheists and their ACLU lawyers as agents of an assault upon masculinity and whiteness (symbolized by certain European religions and the very American religion of Mormonism). The link between white masculinity and religion at century’s end explained why the Boy Scouts would not make this compromise, while the Girl Scouts would; the Girl Scouts, quite simply, have no stake in the masculinity part of the tangle.

· Jay Mechling


Copyright notice: Excerpted from pages 35-47 of On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth by Jay Mechling, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2001 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of University of Chicago Press.

On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth
©2001, 348 pages, 11 halftones, 1 map, 1 chart
Cloth $30.00 ISBN: 0-226-51704-7
Paper $19.00 ISBN: 0-226-51705-5

Originally posted 2010-02-28 01:00:57.

Retail Transactions and Privacy

I purchased a couple pairs of shorts the other day (Wednesday before Thanksgiving) and to my surprise the retailer ask me if I’d like them to record my driver’s license number to make any return easier (by swiping the information into the terminal).

WTF?

Last time I checked retailers were not entitled to the information on my driver’s license.

And this was particularly eerie to me because a group of my friends and I had been discussing an issue concerning the collection of personal data on consumers as part of the return process.

Of course, there’s not federal law that limits the amount of information a retail establishment can request (well — unless that transaction has to do with health care, and the HIPAA would require that you be provided with a privacy policy covering how the information could be used — but they can still ask).

To me, the moment the Patriot Act was signed American freedoms and privacy quickly started to spiral down the toilet; and I said it a decade ago and I’m still saying it — the law needs to be repealed.

I personally do not feel that retail stores are entitled to any personal information; that they should be required to honor their return policies as clearly posted; and that in order or collected and store personal information they must obtain a signed release at time of sale, and understand that they and their agents are fully and completely liable for any misuse of that information not explicitly contained in the signed release.

And while I don’t generally jump up and down about federal laws we need — we definitely need uniform consumer protection across this country.

Some states have a patchwork of laws that partially protect consumer privacy; but even in those states business have abused the laws because consumers don’t have a clear, consistent understanding of them — and I’ll point out that with more and more consumer transactions involving interstate commerce, only a federal law would really be able to insure consumer privacy.

Originally posted 2012-11-24 12:00:45.

Disclosing Personal Information

I find more and more companies attempt to get as much personal information on me as they can.

I also find more and more companies mishandle the personal information that they have collected.

I just got a letter today from a transfer agent one of my previous employers used; apparently they “lost” a data backup set that contained my personal information, of course they assure me that there’s little chance of any of my personal information being misused.  And offer to reimburse me for any expenses I might incur in obtaining a credit report, monitoring my credit, freezing access to my credit history — but I didn’t see in there any offer to compensate me for my time, or any loses that I might incur.

I think I’m just going to write them back, thank them for advising me of this information, and tell them that they may hire someone to manage and monitor misuse of information which they lost (most likely negligently); but that I will not incur any costs of money or time taking actions to protect myself from this incident, but I will hold them liable for any and all actual, consequential and potentially punitive damages should information they mishandled be used in any illegal activity.

My advice to companies that collect personal data is that they purge any at all personal data they have at the earliest possible time that they can legally do so.  Failing to take such action makes companies that maintain personal data liable for an unauthorized disclosure of information; and I would say potentially criminally negligent.

Originally posted 2009-01-18 01:00:44.

Voting Advice With Your Paycheck

A Canton, Ohio McDonald’s franchisee (Paul Siegfried) took it on himself to include an insert in his employee’s paychecks suggesting that his employees vote for three Republican candidates, also on the note was:

If the right people are elected we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected we will not.

Sounds a little intimidating / threatening… I guess this business owner didn’t feel that election laws applied to him.

It’s really a travesty that any American wouldn’t know that it’s illegal for an employer to in any way try and influence his employees to vote for or against a given candidate or measure in an election… and even if you didn’t know it’s illegal, it’s certainly immoral.

Personally I hope Mr Siegfried finds himself in jail as an example to others who simply do not feel the law applies to them… and if I were McDonald’s I think a little more than a statement saying that their franchisee doesn’t speak for them is in order, particularly since it was on a piece of stationary bearing the McDonald’s logo.

Originally posted 2010-11-01 02:00:29.

Florida Ban On Gay Adoption — ILLEGAL

The Third District Court of Appeals three judge panel has ruled that a Florida law prohibiting gays from adopting children is unconstitutional.

The rational is based on the fact that Florida is the only state which has a law that forbids gays from adopting children; and is the only class of individual forbidden in Florida from adopting — convicted criminals, those with a past history of substance or child abuse are considered on a case-by-case basis.

For thirty three years this Florida law stood on the books; almost from the time of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay stand.

For me it’s hard to believe that lies propagated by the religious right have been enforced as laws to enforce a morality that has not basis in fact.

I don’t consider it progress; I just consider it a mile stone in bigotry.

Originally posted 2010-09-22 02:00:07.

How To Stop Unwanted Mail

On 04 May 1970 The United States Supreme Court issued a final decision in a case concerning what was then 39 USC Section 4009 and 4009a and is now 39 USC Section 3008… essentially that decision gave each and every American the power to order the United States Post Office to issue an injunction against any mail sender they deemed the material sent to them to be offensive.

The Unites States Supreme Court additional ruled that only the recipient of the material could make the determination of what was and was not offensive; that the United States Post Office and all other agencies must enforce based on an individuals preferences (not an arbitrary standard).

To exercise your rights under the law in the past you would need to request and execute US Post Office Form 2150 “Prohibitory order against sender of pandering advertisement in the mails” in triplicate.  However the US Post Office has replaced Form 2150 with Form 1500 which is available in PDF

You can return the completed form and the opened envelope from the sender to your local post office or to:

     Pricing and Classification Service Center
     PO BOX 1500
     New York NY 10008-1500

Your local post office will likely try to tell you that you cannot use these forms unless it contains “erotically arousing or sexually provocative matter”, however you can refer them to page 13 of Postal Bulletin 219177 (30 July 1998) and point out:

Postmasters may not refuse to accept a Form 1500 because the advertisement in question does not appear to be sexually oriented.  Only the addressee may make that determination.

Further, Form 1500 includes the following paragraph:

Your obtaining the protection offered through these two programs makes sending prohibited mail to you unlawful. However, it does not make such mailings physically impossible. If you receive an apparently violate mail piece, contact your post office or refer to your notification letter for instructions on submitting the piece as evidence for possible enforcement action.

The article you attach to your a prohibitory order must be opened (postal employees are not permitted to open sealed articles).

 


 

ROWAN, DBA AMERICAN BOOK SERVICE, et al. V. UNITED STATES POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT et al.

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

No. 399. Argued January 22, 1970. Decided May 4, 1970

US Code Title 39 Part IV Chapter 30 § 3008

§ 3008. Prohibition of pandering advertisements

 


 

United States Postal Service Administrative Decsions

PART 963 – Rules of Practice in Proceedings Relative to Violations of The Pandering Advertisements Statue, 39, U.S.C. 3008

 

Originally posted 2008-11-02 12:00:41.

Mega Church – Mega Sex Scandle

Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia (just East of Atlanta) has been accused by three young male members of his congregation for sexual impropriety.

It’s yet another example of religious figures potentially using their position of authority and respect to seduce individuals who trust and respect them.

In this case, apparently the church leader seduced the boys by providing them with cars, money, clothes, jewelry, international trips, and access to celebrities.

What is totally hilarious about this particular case of homosexual relations between Long and three boys is that Long had joined with Rev Bernice King (the youngest daughter of the late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr and also a pastor at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church) in a march in 2004 in Atlanta to support a national constitutional amendment to protect marriage as a union “between one man and one woman”.  Additionally not only does Long support a national ban on same-sex marriage, but his church counsels gay members to become straight.

One can only wonder what else might happen at the Longfellows Youth Academy, a tuition-based program for young men between the ages of 13 and 18.

Just another mega evil of mega religion.

Originally posted 2010-09-29 02:00:28.

Report Fraud

Each and every time you encounter someone trying to defraud you make sure you report it.

Phishing scams, money scams, premium SMS message, suspicious phone calls, un-authorized phone charges, un-authorized credit card charges, etc — go ahead and visit the IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center; a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], the National White Collar Crime Center [NW3C], and the Bureau of Justice Assistance [BJA]) and file a report.

Take action and let the law enforcement community decide what’s a threat and what’s not – but DO NOT remain silent or these problems will continue.

http://www.ic3.gov/

 

NOTE:  If you have an un-authorized charge on any of your bills you will also want to contact your billing company and dispute the charge with them; the IC3 will not do this for you.

Originally posted 2008-10-24 13:00:38.

Fry’s Class Action Settlement – Credit Card Return Policy

Seems there’s a Class Action Legal Action against Fry’s Electronics revolving around their credit card return policy.  You can read all the details via the link below, and I’ve copied the text into this blog as well.

Thumbnail… if you did a credit card return to Fry’s between 5 March 2006 and 31 January 2008 you can file for a 20% off (up to a $20 maximum) coupon; you simply need to download the PDF (link below), fill it out, and have it postmarked by 25 July 2008.

Class Action Settlement

Claim Form

———-

California Only

Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action
TO: All persons who, from March 5, 2006 through January 31, 2008, entered into a credit card return transaction with Fry’s Electronics, Inc., in the state of California (“Class Members”).

IF YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THIS CLASS OF PERSONS, YOU SHOULD READ THIS NOTICE CAREFULLY BECAUSE IT WILL AFFECT YOUR RIGHTS.PURPOSE OF THIS NOTICE
This notice informs you about the above-referenced action and a proposed Settlement on behalf of a certain class of persons. This notice advises you of the benefits that may be available to you under the proposed Settlement and your rights and options as a Class Member, and notifies you that hearings will be held to approve the Settlement.

There is currently pending in the California Superior Court for the County of Sacramento an action entitled Krimsky vs. Fry’s Electronics Inc., Case No. 07AS00928 (the “Action”). On April 16, 2008, Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang of the Sacramento County Superior Court, tentatively approved a proposed settlement in this Action.

WHAT THE ACTION IS ABOUT
Plaintiff Roger Krimsky filed a class action lawsuit against Fry’s Electronics, Inc., (hereinafter referred to as “Fry’s” or “Defendant”) on behalf of himself and all Class Members. Plaintiff’s law firm (“Class Counsel”), which represents Plaintiff and the Class Members, is Westrup Klick, LLP.

The lawsuit alleges that Fry’s violated California law by utilizing a return invoice for credit card transactions which conta ined preprinted spaces designated for filling in the address, telephone and/or fax numbers of the cardholder. Fry’s denies that it has violated California law, and denies that any class member is entitled to any relief. However, to avoid the expense, inconvenience and interference with its business operations created by the Action, it has concluded that it is in its best interests to settle the Action on the terms summarized in this Notice.

The settlement was reached through lengthy arms-length negotiations between the parties and with the assistance of a neutral mediator, the Honorable Richard Silver (ret).

The Court has determined that the Action should proceed as a Class Action, for purposes of settlement only, with Plaintiff as the representative of the Class, and granted preliminary approval of the settlement, subject to a final fairness hearing discussed below.

THE PROPOSED SETTLEMENT
THE PARTIES HAVE AGREED TO THE SETTLEMENT GENERALLY DESCRIBED BELOW:

Fry’s has agreed to cease utilizing a return invoice form for credit card transactions which contain preprinted spaces designated for customers’ addresses, telephone and/or fax numbers, except in those instances where required for a special purpose. Such change is subject to modification in relation to modification of the law permitting such.

Class Members who submit a timely Claim Form as described below shall be eligible to receive a 20% off coupon (maximum value of $20 off).

The Parties agreed that, subject to the Court’s final approval, the named Plaintiff, Roger Krimsky, shall be entitled to an incentive award of up to $2,500 in recognition of the risk to Plaintiff as the Class representative in commencing the lawsuit in the Action, both financial and otherwise; the amount of time and effort spent by Plaintiff as the Class representative; and for serving the public interest. The Parties also agreed that subject to the Court’s final approval, Class Counsel shall be entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees and costs of up to $150,000. The Payment of attorneys’ fees will not affect the benefits provided to the Settlement Class.

RELEASE OF ALL CLAIMS
If the settlement is granted final approval, Fry’s and each of its past or present officers, directors, shareholders, employee’s, agents, principals, heirs, representatives, accountants, auditors, consultants, attorneys, insurers and reinsurers, and its and their respective successors and predecessors in interest, subsidiaries, affiliates, parents, subsidiaries, and each of their company- sponsored employee benefit plans and all of their respective officers, directors, employees, administrators, fiduciaries, trustees and agents will be released from all claims, liabilities, demands, debts, accounts, obligations, actions, and causes of action, known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, at law or in equity, of any kind or nature whatsoever (collectively “Claims”) for Defendant’s alleged violation of Civil Code Section 1747.08(a)(3).

FINAL FAIRNESS HEARING
A final hearing will be held before Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang of the Sacramento County Superior Court, on July 18, 2008 at 9:00 a.m., to determine whether the proposed Settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate and should be finally approved. The hearing will take place at the Sacramento County Superior Court, in Dept. 54, located at 720 9th Street, Sacramento, California 95814. You are not required to attend the hearing in order to participate in the settlement.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. To Receive A 20% off Coupon. As a Class Member you are eligible to receive a 20% off coupon (maximum value of up to $20 off). In order to receive your 20% off coupon, you must timely complete and return a valid Claim Form. A Claim Form can be obtained by asking for a Claim Form at a Fry’s return register or by downloading a Claim Form at www.frys.com. In order for the Claim Form to be considered, it must be postmarked by July 25, 2008, and mailed to Krimsky v. Fry’s Electronics Claims Administrator, c/o Desmond, Marcello & Amster, P.O. Box 451999, Los Angeles, California 90045.

2. To Exclude Yourself From The Settlement. As a Class Member, you have the right to exclude yourself from the Action and the settlement. If you are a Class Member and wish to be excluded, you must submit a letter or postcard post-marked no later than June 25, 2008 with the case name, your name, address, and telephone number, stating “I wish to be excluded from the Fry’s Class Action.” To be considered valid, a request for exclusion must set forth all of this information and must be timely received. It must be signed by you personally, in order to be valid. Your request must be sent to: Fry’s Class Action: Krimsky v. Fry’s Electronics Claims Administrator, c/o Desmond, Marcello & Amster, P.O. Box 451999, Los Angeles, California 90045.

If you timely and validly request exclusion from the Class, you will be excluded from the Class; you will not receive any benefits from the settlement; you will not be bound by the judgment entered in the Action and you will not be precluded from otherwise prosecuting any individual claim, if timely, against Fry’s based on the transactions complained of in the Action. If you do not wish to exclude yourself, and have no objection to the settlement, you are eligible to receive the benefits of the settlement if the settlement is approved.

3. To Object To The Settlement. If for some reason you desire to object to the terms of the settlement, you ma y do so under the procedures set forth below. If your objection is rejected you will be bound by the final judgment just as if you had not objected.

If you decide to appear and object, you must file and serve your written request to appear and object with the Court, and upon Counsel for all of the parties by June 25, 2008. You must serve all such notices and papers upon Class counsel and Defendant’s counsel at the following addresses:

Phillip R. Poliner, Esq.
Westrup Klick LLP
444 West Ocean Blvd.,
Suite 1614
Long Beach, CA 90802
(Plaintiff Class Counsel)

William H. Curtis, Esq.
Fry’s Electronics, Inc.
Legal Department
600 East Brokaw
San Jose, CA 95112
(Defendant Class Counsel) 

The mailing address for the Final Approval Hearing is:

Sacramento County Superior Court
Dept.54
720 9th Street
Sacramento, California 95814

Class Members who do not timely make their objections in this manner will be deemed to have waived all objections and shall not be entitled to be heard at the settlement approval hearing.
If you have further questions regarding this lawsuit you may contact Plaintiffs’ Class Counsel, Phillip R. Poliner Esq., of Westrup Klick LLP, at 1-888-268-6884. DO NOT ADDRESS ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SETTLEMENT OR THE LITIGATION TO THE CLERK OF THE COURT, TO THE JUDGE, OR TO COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT.

Originally posted 2008-05-14 12:10:54.

The global war on drugs has failed…

The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world…

Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption. Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers. Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalitiesand other harmful consequences of drug use. Government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments in demand and harm reduction.

 

Global Commission on Drug Policy Report Recommendations:

 

— An end to “the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.”

— Governments experiment “with models of legal regulation of drugs to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens. This recommendation applies especially to cannabis.”

— Increases in “health and treatment services [for] those in need.”

— Less focus on the arrest and imprisonment of “people involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets, such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers. Many are themselves victims of violence and intimidation or are drug dependent. Arresting and incarcerating tens of millions of these people in recent decades has filled prisons and destroyed lives and families without reducing the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organizations.”

— Less emphasis on “simplistic ‘just say no’ messages and ‘zero tolerance’ policies in favor of educational efforts grounded in credible information and prevention programs that focus on social skills and peer influences.”

— A increased focus on “violent criminal organizations, but do so in ways that undermine their power and reachwhile prioritizing the reduction of violence and intimidation. Law enforcement efforts should focus not on reducing drug markets per se but rather on reducing their harms to individuals, communities and national security.”

Members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy

— Asma Jahangir; human rights activist, former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions; Pakistan.
— Carlos Fuentes; writer; Mexico.
— Cesar Gaviria; former president of Colombia.
— Ernesto Zedillo; former president of Mexico.
— Fernando Henrique Cardoso; former president of Brazil.
— George Papandreou; Prime Minister of Greece.
— George Shultz; former secretary of state.
— Javier Solana; former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy; Spain.
— John Whitehead; banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial; United States.
— Kofi Annan; former secretary general of the United Nations.
— Louise Arbour; former U.N. high commissioner for human rights; Canada.
— Maria Cattaui; member of the board, Petroplus Holdings; former secretary-general of the International Chamber of Commerce; Switzerland.
— Marion Caspers-Merk; former state secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health, Germany.
— Mario Vargas Llosa; writer; Peru.
— Michel Kazatchkine; executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; France.
— Paul Volcker; former chairman of the Federal Reserve.
— Richard Branson; entrepreneur; founder of the Virgin Group; U.K.
— Ruth Dreifuss- former president of Switzerland.
— Thorvald Stoltenberg; former minister of foreign affairs and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; Norway.

Originally posted 2011-06-02 02:00:24.