When I was growing up on Long Island, I was no Boy Scout.
That's not a confession about my behavior. I literally was not a member of the Boy Scouts of America. That was my loss.
But my two sons are Scouts. The older is a Boy Scout with Troop 29, and the younger is in Cub Scout Pack 625 - each in Suffolk County. My wife deserves all the credit for getting them active in Scouting.
It has opened up new interests and adventures for the boys - and for me. "Klondike camping," for example, meant sleeping in a tent for two nights with the wind whipping and the temperature dipping below 20 degrees.
That was definitely a new experience for me.
Most important, Scouting reinforces lessons we try to teach about hard work, respecting others, responsibility, faith and love of country.
Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts have been assaulted in recent times by left-wingers who don't like the group's values. But rising in defense is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, with his new book, "On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For."
Perry told me recently why he wrote the book: "I want to espouse the values of an institution that has been developing and promoting and positively shaping millions of young Americans' lives for almost a hundred years. And secondly, I wanted to expose the virus of these secular humanists who are endangering institutions like the Boy Scouts, which teach traditional values."
In addition to providing a comprehensive account on the benefits of Scouting, the book details 30-plus years of legal actions against the Scouts. Perry said the Scouts are forced to spend "just north of a million dollars a year" defending against "frivolous lawsuits."
What's the beef? Atheists don't like that the Scout oath includes a "duty to God," and gay activists disapprove of Scouting's position on homosexuality.
On religion, Perry wrote, "From its earliest days, Scouting has welcomed boys of varying religious faiths." He also pointed out that the Scout bylaws state that "no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God."
As for homosexuality, Perry wrote, "The BSA's position is that a homosexual who makes his sex life a public matter is not an appropriate role model of the Scout Oath and Law for adolescent boys." He added, "Scouting is not intended to advance a discussion about sexual activity, whether of the heterosexual form or the homosexual form."
For these views, the intolerant left has relentlessly attacked Scouting, trying to force the group to change its policies and to get the group booted from public facilities.
Fortunately, in 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts' right to set membership rules - though in a disturbingly narrow 5-4 decision. And in 2001 Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed into law, a measure ensuring that the Scouts could not be discriminated against in terms of access to public-school facilities.
But the anti-Scouting zealots push ahead. Last week, Gov. Perry offered words of encouragement for when the Boy Scouts are under attack: "Look back at that long distinguished list of young men who, before they wore astronauts' uniforms, before they wore generals' uniforms, before they were the captains of industry, before they were fathers and good brothers and good young men, they wore the uniform of Scouting.... Frankly, I think it's the soul of America, and it's a soul that's worth fighting for, it's a soul worth dying for, and it's a soul worth saving."
Perry's book profits will go to Scouting's legal defense. The Boy Scouts have a staunch defender in the governor, and it's a group well worth defending.
Read the entire article on the Newsday website (new window will open). Reprinted with permission of the author.