The Corner

The Klanning of Social Conservatism Continues

Another day, another act of liberal intolerance directly aimed at the First Amendment:

When the California Supreme Court voted last week to prohibit state judges from belonging to nonprofit youth organizations that practice discrimination, Julia Kelety was not surprised.

The issue, which had been roiling through the legal community for the last year, had triggered vigorous debate, giving Kelety, a Superior Court judge in San Diego County, time to prepare.

Committee chair for Boy Scout Troop 24, she has already begun to consider a successor before she begins dialing back her commitment to the 30 boys in her troop.

Although the court’s unanimous decision did not explicitly mention the Boy Scouts of America, there was little doubt that it was the intended target. The organization, which lifted its ban on openly gay boys younger than 18, still prohibits gay and lesbian adults from serving as staff or voluntary leaders.

This decision — which reaches straight into the private lives of public officials, including interfering with how they raise their own children — demonstrates an astounding disregard for individual liberty and places the judicial thumb squarely on the cultural scales of further sexual permissiveness. Justified in part by concerns that judges who volunteer with the Boy Scouts can’t be impartial towards LGBT litigants (an insulting notion all by itself), one wonders if the same reasoning applies to judges who — in their own private lives — belong to LGBT organizations. After all, three of the four officers of the International Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Judges are from California. If private associations are now de facto proof of public bias, can socially conservative litigants have any confidence they’ll be treated fairly by judges who believe they’re virtually the equivalent of racists?

Under that reasoning, would you want to be the Boy Scouts and litigating before a California judge?

In fact, the very presumption that a judge can’t be trusted merely because of his private associations strikes at the heart of judicial impartiality. After all, every single judge in the United States has a world view. It would be hard to find a judge that doesn’t belong to a single private association indicating a level of interest in his community. Are we to believe that all judges’ decisions are pre-ordained by their ideologies and associations?

While there certainly are judges with unacceptable levels of bias, longtime litigators know that it is dangerous and wrong-headed to presume the outcome of a case merely because of a judge’s known ideology. Judges have different faiths and ideologies, yet are required to faithfully interpret the law, regardless of personal preference. So, no, this action wasn’t about judicial impartiality. In fact, the article is notably silent regarding any concrete example of bias related to Boy Scout membership or membership in any other private association. This was instead an act of ideological cleansing, pure and simple — an effort to place the Boy Scouts alongside the Klan as organizations outside the pale of American civilization. And while California judges are still able to belong to religious organizations, that exception only applies because it is not (yet) legally or politically viable to remove. If the far Left could, it would bar judges from teaching Sunday School, serving as elders or deacons, or becoming members of orthodox Christian churches or theologically conservative synagogues. 

The end game is the obliteration of traditional sexual morality and any faith that upholds it. And if persuasion fails, there’s always coercion. Just ask a scoutmaster.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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