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Critic of Boy Scouts wants fliers banned


By TOM BELL, Portland Press Herald Writer


Copyright 2003 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.


After his 6-year-old son started attending school in Portland this fall, David Hilton discovered that being a parent these days means sorting through all the papers that get stuffed into children's backpacks at school.


For Hilton, though, the problem is not the quantity but the content. Some of the papers come from the Boy Scouts of America, a group that prohibits openly gay men from participating.


Hilton said the practice gives the impression that the school department endorses a discriminatory organization, and he is lobbying the School Committee to stop it. The committee will take up the issue tonight.


School Committee Chairman Jonathan Radtke said the fliers pose a dilemma. If school officials ban Boy Scout notices, he said, they will be legally required to ban notices from all other groups. That means Girl Scouts, Little League, soccer clubs, 4-H clubs, hockey clubs, Boys and Girls Clubs. All of those groups would lose a cheap and easy way to communicate with the city's children and their parents, he said.


"We have to have a policy that says everything goes out or nothing goes out," he said.


Most Maine schools allow Boy Scout notices to be sent home, said Duane Havard, assistant scout executive of the Pine Tree Council Boy Scouts of America. Kittery and Gorham are exceptions. They don't allow any groups to send fliers home if the groups aren't connected with the schools.


Kittery instituted the policy this fall without much controversy. Gorham's policy has nothing to do with Boy Scouts. Gorham officials believe that fliers from too many groups dilute the impact of notices from the schools, and that the extra notices were consuming too much staff time.


Hilton said it's a moral issue.


"Young gay and lesbian persons growing up in America . . . have a high rate of depression," he said. "To start in elementary school hearing this unwritten message that it's not OK to be gay, well, that's really upsetting."


City Councilor Peter O'Donnell supports Hilton's efforts. He said the fliers contradict the gay-rights ordinance that Portland voters approved in 1992.


The issue is similar to a controversy that occurred two years ago when some wanted to bar the Boy Scouts from using school facilities.


The School Committee voted to let the Scouts keep using facilities because members believed that banning just one group would be discriminatory. The committee's lawyers cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that said the Boy Scouts is a private organization that has a legal right to exclude homosexuals. If the committee wanted to ban the Scouts, it would have to ban all other groups, the lawyers said.


At the same time the committee voted to let the Boy Scouts keep using school facilities, it decided to post notices stating that groups using the buildings do not represent the views of Portland public schools or their employees.


It appears the School Committee is moving toward the same legal solution for fliers.


Two weeks ago, committee member Kim Matthews, who heads the policy committee, proposed allowing fliers from youth and civic groups as long as the notices have a disclaimer saying the groups' views are not necessarily the views of the school system.


Hilton said the proposed disclaimer does not address his concerns. If a group discriminated against other groups, such as Jews, the School Committee would not let the group put fliers in children's backpacks, he said.


School Committee member James DiMillo, who said he agrees with everything the Boy Scouts do, said committee members want to add a disclaimer just to make themselves feel better. He opposes it.


"My problem with the whole thing is, why change it when we only have one complaint?" he said.




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School Committee member James DiMillo has got my vote. He says "My problem with the whole thing is, why change it when we only have one complaint?". School districts have enough work to do without trying to please everybody in town that has an ax to grind. Press forward with the important school issues.

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True...very true. But in this country we seem to have allowed for the 1/10th of one percent who need to complain to have the floor...the entire floor...all of it...to the exclusion of the majority who like things just the way they are...and have been for most of my lifetime.

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If we follow this guy's logic, that his kid is going to be recieving some kind of message about a group of people, because of the BSA's policy, one that is not advertised and rarely comes up, he must go nuts about other groups. The ROTC would certainly not get his approval because it may send the message that war is necessary. The Christian Fellowship groups would abviously send the message, with their name itself, that there could be something wrong with being of another religion. YMCA sponsored school clubs would also go into that group. The FFA seems to promote the agrarian lifetsyle quite a bit, and so does 4H. I guess we dont't to offend factory workers or suburbanites. The academic team probably excludes those of less than high intelligence. That should be particularly troublesome in an institution dedicated to educating everyone. Sports are obviously discriminatory. Just think about the poor kid with the predisposition to obesity that tries and tries but can never make the team. The gay and lesbian school groups would certainly send an offensive message. This guy is worried about someone thinking BSA is saying "gay is not OK". Well I bet a lot of people would think that a group supports gays and lesbians would send the message that "gay is OK". Now that obviously runs against many peoples religions. Not only do such homosexual groups exist, but many are actually officially sponsored by schools. Seems like someone could suggest that promotes one set of religious beliefs, in outcome, if not in intent. Maybe the German clud offends Jews, or Poles, or French, so it should be banned. Anyone conquered or repressed by the Romans could find offense in a Latin club dedicated the the language and cultore of that group. The FHA would probably run into problems with some feminists just because the concept of homemaker is somehow bad for women.


Have I made my point yet?


I think so.


No matter what you do someone will be offended these days. There are places that local government employees are prohibited from displaying the American flag because of fear of offending the locals. (Most of whom are not really locals and not necessarily here legally.) This is happening in America. Soon anything that in any way supports or promotes or favors any group, even if that group is Americans, will be shut down or stopped for fear of offending someone. Tell me where the right to not be offended is? Where is the right to never have my beliefs challenged? I don't see that right anywhere in America. Especially since that right would destroy all other rights.

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  • 5 months later...

Seems to me that an incredibly important point is being completely ignored here. Read the first paragraph again:

"After his 6-year-old son started attending school in Portland this fall, David Hilton discovered that being a parent these days means sorting through all the papers that get stuffed into children's backpacks at school."

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the school probably does not supply its students with backpacks. No, I'm pretty sure that backpack was bought by David Hilton. Which means that he owns it. It's his. He can make whatever rules regarding its use that he wants. If he wants to tell people that he doesn't want BSA fliers stuffed in it, then what right does anyone have to stuff BSA fliers in it?

And the whole "only one person is complaining" thing is silly. The morality of an action is not determined by the number of people that it bothers. If 99.999% of the people decide to suspend private property rights to advertise activities, too bad. It's the .001% that matters. I can just imagine a murder defendant using this defense "Your honor, no one really liked this guy. Everyone else wanted him dead, too. So really, the victim's the only one with a problem with it."

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"He can make whatever rules regarding its use that he wants. If he wants to tell people that he doesn't want BSA fliers stuffed in it, then what right does anyone have to stuff BSA fliers in it?"


Ah, De-low shows that he doesn't live in the real world. No one stuffs papers into anyone's backpack. The children are given a sheaf of papers which they stuff into their backpacks to take home.

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A great many items that are sent home via my children's backpacks are simply deposited in the trash can -- no offense taken, no harm done, no time wasted on the stuff. It's a lot like that junk mail that comes to "resident" -- I don't want it, didn't ask for it, and rarely spare more than a glance at it.

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And once again FOG shows that he's not interested in having a mature discussion. Making lame puns out of other people's names, blaming the victim (apparently if someone is offended, it's because they are "looking" for offense), acttacking me for imaginary offenses (making up hypothetical food procurement situations, and telling me what I would do), and making fun of other people's misery. That's what passes for argument in FOG-land.

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Here's what I would do if I were the school--on the first informational flier from the school at the beginning of the year, I would inform the parents that fliers from various groups would be sent home, and that the school doesn't necessarily endorse their views. Then all the parents are on notice, and they can tell their kids if they feel like it.

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