Mr. Foley Was Right
By Malcom Lagauce (Jeff Archer)
January 9, 2004
In June 1960, the Tiverton Little League in Rhode Island held a Friday night baseball game because of a previous rain out. Usually, the league only played games from Sunday through Thursday. On this particular night, I held double-duty because Fridays were the nights when my local Boy Scout troop met. Fortunately, the meeting place was in the school situated about 100 yards from the baseball field.
I had what could be called a "career game," as I pitched a shutout and hit two home runs. One of the homers, a screeching line drive, put a dent in the scoreboard that was visible for years to come. I held this as my legacy to the Tiverton Little League because, for years after, I would point out to anyone who listened that I was the creator of that gaping concavity that had never been repaired.
During the game, I noticed that my scoutmaster, Mr. Foley, was in the stands. He had never attended a Little League game prior to this evening. In addition, most of the members of my scout troop were there and cheered wildly as my second home run left the playing venue and landed in a wooded area that appeared to be miles away. As I rounded the bases, their ovation became deafening.
After the game, I triumphantly walked to the school and entered the basement for our scout meeting. I did not have time to change into my Boy Scout uniform and thought it an appropriate statement by being in my baseball attire. Had we lost and I had not performed above my normal ability, I may have had second thoughts about my night's choice of apparel.
When the meeting started, Mr. Foley stated, "I am very proud of one of our members who is here this evening." As I listened, I waited for him to mention my Ruthian feats that the whole group had just witnessed, but he continued, "You don't know how proud I am that Malcom Lagauche made the honor roll at Pocasset School." He then showed everyone the newspaper that listed the current honor roll students from my junior high school.
I was disappointed because, at that time, I considered an athletic accolade superior to a mere cerebral praise. In those days, as with current times, it seemed that youngsters were given more credit by their peers and adults for sports feats than for scholastic endeavors. Only later in life do we realize the fallacy of such thinking.
I was a member of Troop 71 for three years. We had a wonderful group and an insightful troop leader in Mr. Foley. For three years, we learned much about life, the outdoors, competition, education and other such important matters. Mr. Foley's hobby was birdwatching and he gave us much detailed information about our winged friends.
In three years, religion was never brought up at our meetings. Mr. Foley never questioned the fact that I did not go to church. He never asked why I mumbled during the Scout oath when it came to stating about doing one's duty to God. He knew that I was uncomfortable with that phrase. At the time, I had never heard the word "atheist," but now I know why I felt ill at ease. Mr. Foley never stated a negative word about the school bully who had spent a year in reform school and was openly homosexual. In those days, a much less desirable word was used to describe non-heterosexuals. The bully was welcomed as a functioning member of our troop. The only thing that Mr. Foley demanded was respect by everyone for everyone in the troop.
A year after the mentioned meeting, Mr. Foley suffered a heart attack and had to give up his troop leader function. Unfortunately, no one came forward to replace him, so the troop was abandoned. A few months after the dissolution, I attended a meeting of a scout troop in an adjacent town and was disappointed. That was my last Boy Scout meeting. The magic was gone.
Mr. Foley was right. I hit my last home run in August 1975 at the Rosehill Recreation Ground in southwest London, England. In the ensuing 29 years, however, I have had to use the knowledge I gained in school to function in society. That knowledge has been at the forefront of my chosen field of writing. Home runs come and go. Probably there are only a few people on this Earth today who can recall, or care to recall, any of my feats on the baseball diamond, yet many have been and are still affected by books or articles I have written.
My idyllic memories of scouting were steadfast in my mind. Nothing happened to make me question them or the institute of scouting. Nothing, that is, until I read an article years ago in the San Diego Union-Tribune concerning Boy Scout leader Chuck Marino of El Cajon, California. It appears that he was an astute and trusted leader of America's youth for 16 years, earning national awards for his work. Then, in one day, he was banned from scouting. He was deemed to be a bad role model for youngsters. He did not earn these condemnations for any actions: he was ostracized because he is homosexual.
Shortly after Marino's banishment, twin boys from Orange County in California were kicked out of the Boy Scouts. Their crime? They were atheists. In a television interview, they put their case forward. In spite of their young age of 11, they were eloquent beyond belief. It was evident that they were well above average in the amount of gray matter they possessed in their brains. I thought they would be a great asset to their peers, but scoutdom held a different opinion.
The two aforementioned cases received much national publicity and uncovered the fact that the Boy Scouts of America discriminated against certain segments of the population of the United States. The organization held that this was legal and above board because it is a private organization and is allowed to discriminate. A subsequent Supreme Court decision re-affirmed this right to discriminate.
There is no problem with private groups who discriminate if they remain private. The problems enter when the groups who discriminate also gain taxpayer subsidies for their organizations. The Boy Scouts of America reap the benefits of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars of such subsidies.
When a group meets at the local police station, or public school, taxpayer dollars are used to support it. In addition, the U.S. military sponsors many Boy Scout activities; again using taxpayer dollars. Such activity is nothing more than subsidized discrimination.
In the past few years, some groups who once sponsored Boy Scout troops, such as police departments, have halted their support because of the discriminatory practices. Some still sponsor the Boy Scouts.
The city of San Diego was sponsoring the Boy Scouts by allowing them to rent, for one dollar a year, acres of land in Balboa Park. The city administration voted to sign an agreement with the Scouts to keep the same deal for the next 25 years. However, with much opposition from many sides, the City changed its vote and will not allow the subsidized discrimination.
Although the city changed its mind, mostly because the ACLU said it would take the city to task if it didn't, the underlying aspect of discrimination in our society is still blatant. An article in the December 5, 2001 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune stated: "Mayor Murphy said he could support a call for lifting the ban on homosexuals, but was not so sure about calling for a change in the policy of prohibiting nonbelievers from being scouts or scout leaders."
Such a statement is bigotry in the worst scenario. To infer that an atheist is not morally astute enough to teach values to youngsters puts them in the same light as violent criminals. I wonder if Mayor Murphy considers 93% of the membership of the National Academy of Science to be unworthy of such a cause. After all, that is the number of members who are atheists. How about such great authors as Kurt Vonnegut? Or successful entrepreneurs as Bill Gates or Ted Turner? They are atheists. We all have read Mark Twain's poignant stories of youth and many appear to be the basis for scouting. This well-quoted author and philosopher was an atheist. Do we discount his writings?
As atheists, remarks made by Mayor Murphy cling to us in a manner that is hard to forget. When he made his slight, it brought back to mind that in several states of the United States atheists are not allowed to hold public office - not even that of notary public. It brought to mind a statement made by then presidential candidate George Bush in 1988 that atheists can not play a contributing role in American society. He then added that it is impossible for an atheist to be a patriot because this nation was formed under God. It brought to mind the 2002 opening of the United States Congress when a Jewish rabbi, Rabbi Latham, mentioned "the evil doctrine of atheism," and not one member of Congress protested the bigoted remark. It brought to mind that both the Democratic candidates for president and vice president in the 2000 election stated, "In America, we have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."
There is no other group in the United States that has to listen to its so-called leaders denigrate them. No longer do we hear the words "nigger," "queer," "beaner," or "spic" spoken publicly. We do not hear anti-Jewish remarks any more in the public arena. Even anti-homosexual remarks are made behind closed doors.
Atheists are another story. It's all right to bash atheists. The politicians use techniques to garner votes from those voters who practice a religion. Atheist bashing transcends political party affiliation, so each major party tries to outdo the other. The only result is that atheists have begun to shun the messages of both the Republicans and Democrats and are turning to minor parties, or they refuse to vote at all.
In going back to 1960, it appears that Mr. Foley possessed wisdom well beyond that of most. He probably did not think he was being a sociological or psychological mentor. He was only doing what he thought was right.