Opinion

NATELSON: Boys Scouts’ Alleged Sexual Abuse Is Newsworthy — But Coverage Should Be Fair

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Robert Natelson Senior Fellow, Independence Institute

A blaring story in Sunday’s Denver Post announced that “hundreds of men … plan to sue” the Boy Scouts over allegations of sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse is a serious crime and should be taken seriously. So the story should not be ignored. But why did the Post run it as the front-page lead in a Sunday edition? Few of the allegations arose in the newspaper’s local coverage area. None of them has been adjudicated — or even been filed — in court, so we don’t know how many are true. After all, thousands of lawsuits are filed every year. Some are vindicated, but others are not.

Even if all the “hundreds of men” are telling the truth, that doesn’t say much about the Boy Scouts in general. Since its founding, the organization has engaged an astounding 110 million Americans. “Hundreds of men” represent an infinitesimal fraction of those involved.

I was deeply involved in “scouting” for nearly a decade — most of my boyhood — both in the rank-and-file and (as a senior scout) in leadership. I never saw, heard of, or received any reason to suspect improper behavior by any one at any time. It would have been easy for the Post to find someone like me to interview. The Post apparently made no effort to do so.

Even if the worse claims against the Boy Scouts were true, on the scale of things there are stories of far more public import that go largely uncovered. The worldwide epidemic in brutality against Christians and Jews is one. Another is the dramatic drop in African American unemployment. The damage the federal government continues to inflict on our health care system is yet another.

The truth is that the media focus on the faults in the Boy Scouts for the same reason they focus on faults in the Catholic Church: Both organizations promote values loathed by the leftists who seem to dominate the media.

They have targeted the Boy Scouts for some time. In the anti-scouting campaign, consistency matters little, as shown by the response to scouting’s efforts to counteract sexual abuse. When the Boy Scouts decided to protect vulnerable boys from dependence on men who were sexually active with males, the left charged the Scouts with bigotry and punished them every way they could. When the media discovered that the Scouts had a list of known sexual offenders to prevent them from taking leadership positions, somehow that fact was spun against the Scouts as well.

Scouting promotes all the values the left hates. Although non-sectarian, scouting encourages religious faith. It teaches perseverance, self-denial, honesty, patriotism, safe use of firearms, and respect for family and elders. Before the leadership made the focus-losing decision to admit girls, the Boy Scouts were unapologetically male-centered. Scouting has taught boys the traditional masculine virtues of courage, physical fitness, endurance, responsibility, civic leadership, generosity, and respect for women. Scouting conveys the lessons of character necessary to become good husbands, fathers, and involved citizens.

The Boy Scouts look to private action, rather than merely government, for charitable service. Hence the group’s famous motto, “Do a good turn daily.”

One kind of Boy Scout service involves the natural environment. The Boy Scouts always have been engaged in practical environmentalism. This was true long before the left discovered environmentalism as a way to promote big government. It was true when the left was still using mass industrialization as a way to promote big government.

When I was a Scout, we planted trees, built and maintained trails, fought erosion, and recovered despoiled natural areas. We spent a great deal of time hiking, camping, and in sports and other outdoor activities. I was, and still am, a bookworm. But the scouting experience toughened me physically and in other ways; and it endowed me with a lifelong love of the outdoors.

We learned how to be self-reliant in nature: how make things from natural materials, how to find and cook food and fashion shelters, how to wend our way with map and compass, how to identify plants and animals. Long before the left re-discovered Native Americans, the best Native practices were explicit models for the Scouts.

Among all Boy Scouts values, from the left’s point of view, the worst may be self-reliance. Socialists want us to remain children dependent on government. They do not want a citizenry filled with men and women who can take care of themselves.

That is why, in the left’s view, the Boy Scouts must be destroyed.

Rob Natelson, a former constitutional law professor, is senior fellow in Constitutional Jurisprudence at the Independence Institute in Denver. As a boy, he served in all Boy Scout ranks from Bobcat to Eagle. He still spends much of his free time in outdoor activities.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.