Saturday, March 07, 2009

Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

Critics, outraged that the Boy Scouts of America are allowed to exclude gays and atheists while receiving federal funding, want the president to reject the title of honorary president of the Scouts

President Obama says he wants to be president of all the people. But some groups are urging him to make an exception for the Boy Scouts of America. Critics of the Scouts who are outraged that the group is allowed to exclude gays and atheists while receiving federal funding are urging Obama to reject the group's honorary presidency, a designation bestowed on every U.S. president since William Howard Taft in 1910. "I'm hoping and praying he turns down the honorary presidency," said Howard Menzer, president of Scouting for All, which advocates for inclusion of gays into the Boy Scouts. "No way should he be involved with a discriminatory group. That would be the best thing that could happen if he said, 'You discriminate too much for me. I can't be your honorary president.' I think that might begin to change a few things."

Obama was meeting with a delegation of the Boy Scouts in the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon, at which time he was to accept the group's 2008 Report to the Nation. A Boy Scouts spokesman said Obama has indicated he will accept the title of honorary president. "We believe one of our greatest strengths as a nation is that we can disagree on a number of issues while agreeing to support the common good," Deron Smith, a spokesman for BSA, told "We're a voluntary, private organization for families that share our values," he added. "While many may disagree with our policies, there's no question that we're part of the common good and have been for 100 years."

The White House did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

As a presidential candidate, Obama provoked fears from conservative groups that his policies would undermine the Scouts. Focus on the Family Action wrote a hypothetical letter last year imagining the consequences of an Obama presidency. In the "Letter from 2012" in Obama's America, the Boy Scouts disbanded rather than obey a decision forcing them to allow homosexual scoutmasters. The group, which is a cultural action organization separate from Focus on the Family, backed away from that rhetoric during an interview with "The Boy Scouts are a venerable faith-based institution in our country. And the president could celebrate diversity by accepting that honorary status," said Tom Minnery, senior vice president of public policy for the group. "We hope the White House will keep its hands off the Boy Scouts," he said. "The courts have settled the question." In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts can bar homosexuals from being troop leaders.

Because of the Boy Scouts' exclusionary practices, some public schools across the country tried to limit or end their ties with the organization. But in 2001 the federal government ordered public schools to keep their doors open to the Scouts. And Congress, responding to the threat of campus lockouts, voted to cut federal funding to any school that banned the Scouts or any similar group from "open forum" access.

Taxpayers also fund Boy Scout activities with several millions of dollars through military personnel, federal land use and other assistance. Taxpayers doled out roughly $8 million for the 2005 Jamboree, held every four years.

Gay and atheist activists now hope Obama will signal his disapproval of the Boy Scouts practices or turn the federal faucet off. The American Humanist Association, along with 18 other nontheistic, atheist and agnostic organizations, sent a letter to Obama in January urging him to reject the title of honorary president. "The BSA has elected to set itself apart as a private organization that may discriminate in ways contrary to the laws and practices required of local, state, and federal authorities," the letter reads. "Accepting the title and role of honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America would thus send the message that institutional discrimination against people who don't happen to believe in a god is acceptable." AHA president David Niose pointed out that Obama was raised by a mother he described as a secular humanist. "As such, he surely realizes that, if he were to accept the current Boy Scout standard, he would be endorsing discrimination against the same value system under which he was raised."


MA: "Married" homosexuals sue for equal benefits

Mary Ritchie, a Massachusetts State Police trooper, has been married for almost five years and has two children. But when she files her federal income tax return, she's not allowed to check the "married filing jointly" box. That's because Ritchie and her spouse, Kathleen Bush, are a gay couple, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act makes them ineligible to file joint tax returns.

Now Ritchie, Bush and more than a dozen others are suing the federal government, claiming the act discriminates against gay couples and is unconstitutional because it denies them access to federal benefits that other married couples receive, such as pensions and health insurance. Plaintiffs also include Dean Hara, the widower of former U.S. Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay member of the House of Representatives. In Ritchie's case, she and her spouse say they have paid nearly $15,000 more in taxes than they would have if they had been able to file joint returns.

"It saddens us because we love our country," Ritchie said. "We are taxpayers. We live just like anyone else in our community. We do everything just like every other family, like every other married couple, and we are treated like less than that."

The lawsuit was being filed Tuesday in federal court in Boston by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the anti-discrimination group that brought a successful legal challenge leading to Massachusetts becoming the first state in the nation to legalize gay marriage in 2004. Only Massachusetts and Connecticut allow gay marriage. Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and New Hampshire allow civil unions.

Californians voted in November to overturn a court ruling that allowed gay marriage, but the state still offers domestic partnerships that guarantee the same rights as marriage. Hawaii is considering a bill that will allow same-sex civil unions.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was enacted by Congress in 1996 when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriage and opponents worried that other states would be forced to recognize such marriages. The new lawsuit challenges only the portion of the law that prevents the federal government from affording Social Security and other benefits to same-sex couples.

More here

Only 38% of Britons have any faith in their police

This is a huge change. The British were once remarkable for the high esteem in which they held their police. I remember it well

Less than half of the public have confidence in the police to deal with crime and loutish behaviour, a Government survey revealed yesterday. In some force areas, the approval rating is an alarmingly low 38 per cent, while nationwide it is only 46 per cent, the Home Office said. Now Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is demanding that all forces achieve a confidence rating of 60 per cent by 2012 - even though this will still leave four out of ten people without faith in the police.

Miss Smith said that, with immediate effect, she was scrapping all the targets currently imposed on police forces by her department, such as asset recovery, monitoring prolific young offenders and race equality employment. In their place will come the single new measure of confidence. To hit a confidence rating of 60 per cent, some forces will have to make dramatic improvements.

Critics said the Government was responsible for the public having so little trust in the police to protect them. They said officers were so bound up in red tape they were unable to do the jobs the public demanded - such as patrolling the streets. Conservative policing spokesman David Ruffley said: 'This underlines the real urgency of getting more police back on the beat to deter anti-social behaviour and make arrests where necessary. 'That is what the public want to see in their neighbourhoods. Twelve years of Labour red tape and bureaucracy have wasted police time, keeping them away from front line crime-fighting.'

Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said: ' This reflects not so much the public's attitude to the police, but to the criminal justice system in general. 'The view is that the whole system is failing and because the police are in the front line we take the brunt of it. How can any society be expected to cope with 70 per cent re-offending rates?'

The findings, based on the British Crime Survey of 30,000 homes, are the first directly to address the question: 'Do you have confidence in police and local councils in dealing with anti-social behaviour and crime?' Lincolnshire scored only 38 per cent while South Wales managed 38.7 per cent, Humberside 39.2 per cent and Gwent 39.3 per cent.

Miss Smith said: 'I have a single-minded focus on building public confidence in policing and that means the police should be answering to the public, not the Government. That is why I have scrapped all but one central target for the police - to raise public confidence. 'I have always been clear that this target needs to be challenging if we are to see real change in public confidence in the police. By 2012, I want to see at least 60 per cent of people confident that the police are addressing what matters locally.'

However, police insiders questioned the significance of the Home Office scrapping the existing targets. Forces will still be answerable to other Whitehall departments, such as the Audit Commission, and will also remain free to set their own local targets.

Meanwhile, complaints against police officers in England and Wales have risen to record levels. According to the Independent Police Complaints Commission there were 48,280 complaints in the year to March, up 5 per cent on the previous year and the highest total since independent investigations began more than 20 years ago. Most of the complaints concerned alleged failures to investigate or record crimes properly.


Intelligence is no guarantee of goodness

by Jeff Jacoby

PETER SINGER has written a new book. The prominent Australian philosopher, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, argues in The Life You Can Save that residents of the affluent West have it within their power to eradicate extreme Third World poverty and its attendant suffering. By donating money to charity instead of spending it on things we don't really need, he writes, everyone can save lives -- and when you fail to do so, he suggests, "you are leaving a child to die, a child you could have saved."

Singer told the Wall Street Journal last week that he tries to practice what he preaches by giving one-third of his income to "Oxfam and other organizations working in the field." Few of us can give away that much of our earnings, but Singer urges most people to donate between 1 percent and 5 percent of what they make to help the destitute, with those who earn more digging even deeper.

You don't have to be a disciple of Singer's philosophy to admire his commitment to charity, especially when you consider the tightfistedness of some of our leading public figures. (One recent example: For the 10 years ending in 2007, then-Senator Joseph Biden and his wife gave slightly more than one-eighth of 1 percent of their income to charity -- a mere $3,690 on an adjusted gross income of $2.45 million.) I salute Singer's generosity, and sincerely hope that his new book prompts many readers to do more for the needy than they have ever thought about doing before.

And yet I can't help wondering which will ultimately prove more influential -- Singer's efforts to save lives through charity, or the role he has played as an intellectual enabler for the modern culture of death.

In 2005, Foreign Policy marked its 35th anniversary by asking several thinkers to speculate on what ideas or values taken for granted today will vanish in the next 35 years. "The sanctity of life," answered Singer, looking forward to the day when "only a rump of hard-core, know-nothing religious fundamentalists will defend the view that every human life, from conception to death, is sacrosanct." A year earlier, pronouncing "the whole edifice of Judeo-Christian morality . . . terminally ill," Singer had elaborated on his notorious view that it ought to be lawful to kill severely disabled infants. "All I am saying," he told The Independent, "is, why limit the killing to the womb? Nothing magical happens at birth. Of course infanticide needs to be strictly legally controlled and rare -- but it should not be ruled out, any more than abortion."

Perhaps it seems odd that the same individual can be a champion of both saving life through philanthropy and ending life through legalized infanticide. Yet if morality is merely a matter of opinion and preference -- if there is no overarching ethical code that supersedes any value system we can contrive for ourselves -- then why not value the lives of the impoverished above the lives of the disabled? Singer accepts that some of what he says "seems obscene and evil if you are still looking at it through the prism of the old morality." But give up that "old morality," and the objections are easily resolved.

In his Wall Street Journal interview, Singer spoke of dilemmas that may arise in the future when parents are able to select the genetic traits of their offspring. "I would not oppose selecting for intelligence," he says. "We could assume that people of higher intelligence would have good consequences for society."

Could we, though? Does higher intelligence always, or even usually, lead to "good consequences?" Like strength or agility or attractiveness, intelligence is only a gift, not a guarantee -- an asset that can as readily be used to harm others as to help them. Singer's faith in intelligence is consistent with his own life's work, but highly intelligent people are perfectly capable of monstrousness. Reason, education, and intellectual quickness are to be prized, but they are no substitute for good character, kindness, and ethical values. In the 20th century, after all, it was learned intellectuals who signed newspaper ads supporting Stalin, and men with PhDs who planned Hitler's Final Solution.

Intelligence alone will not make the world a better place, and if anyone's career proves the point, it is Singer's. Over the years, he has turned his skill to rationalizing bestiality, proposing a 28-day period during which newborns could be killed, and concluding that breeding children for spare parts is "not . . . something really wrong in itself." And why not? Once you've jettisoned the "old morality," good and evil become just a matter of opinion. "Man without God is a beast," wrote Whittaker Chambers, "never more beastly than when he is most intelligent about his beastliness."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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