Billy Davis Column 7-20-12

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 20, 2012

Society shaped by what, where  it gives its attention

You already know why a community newspaper like The Panolian is important; it informs the community about what’s happening.

It’s a pretty straightforward concept. You put the paper in your hands then you absorb some news. By definition “absorb” means to “soak up” and “news” is information about a recent event that was previously unknown to you. So you’re soaking up what you didn’t know before you read it.  

This commentary is about what you know and what you don’t know, and why that matters.

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This week the Boy Scouts of America announced it would continue to ban homosexuals from participating as scouts and scout leaders. The announcement came after a two-year internal review by the BSA after the organization was under pressure to change its stance by changing its beliefs.

If you’ve been paying close attention — again, that’s the point of this column — you know the Boy Scouts have been engaged in an ongoing battle with homosexual activists for many years, and this week’s news was just the latest to emerge from that ongoing fight.

My question is if you even knew the venerable Boy Scouts are pitched in a costly battle over their refusal to admit homosexuals and atheists into this organization.

Did you know that numerous corporations, charities, city governments and even Steven Spielberg, an Eagle Scout, have dropped their support for the organization in recent years?

Did you know the Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Scouts have the legal right to choose their members based on “freedom of association” promised under the Constitution?

Did you know the Scouts narrowly won that court case 5-4?

Google is a wonderful invention. A 30-second Internet search informed me that the Boy Scouts of America have been under pressure since 1981, when a former scout who is homosexual sued for the right to be an assistant scoutmaster. The fight has been going on ever since over “tolerance” and “acceptance.”

I’m not expecting us to be experts on the topic. Nobody except a lawyer for the Boy Scouts, or the army of lawyers at the ACLU, can be expected to know all of this trivia of course. But the question circles around again: what information are you absorbing? And why?

It’s quite unfortunate that Steven Tyler and J-Lo are stepping down from “Idol,” and I have hope beyond hope that maybe — just maybe — the show can snag Mariah Carey, who is said to be in “serious talks” with the show about a future seat.  Can they afford her? Will she get along with Randy?

Allow me a minute, I’ve got to go throw up….

Okay, I’m back.

This community newspaper brings you local news and local events, and I hope beyond hope that you’re paying attention to the LS Energy bankruptcy, the gang shootings that have rocked our county, and the behind-the-scene rumblings at South Panola. All of that affects you.

What happens to the Boy Scouts this year and in five years affects you, too, but it’s rare that you read about that on our front page or on the opinion page, because we’re chasing local stories for you.

What I’m asking — no, pleading — is for our readers to take time to learn about life-changing issues that impact your family and your faith, both here at home and in Jackson and in Washington.

Go find a source for national news, spend a lot of time thinking about the issues you learn about, then choose a point of view that you can defend.

If you think the Boy Scouts are close-minded bigots who should open up their organization to people who don’t share their beliefs, then ponder the case of the photography studio in New Mexico that refused to photograph a lesbian wedding. The owners of the studio made their stand on religious beliefs and so far they’ve lost several court battles to choose what events they put on the calendar.

If a homosexual couple picking out a wedding cake in Batesville gets turned away by a cake-baking preachers’s wife, where would you stand? And why?

My Internet search this week led me to the dissenting opinion in that 5-4 Supreme Court case. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote it was “clear as the light of day” that the Scouts’ pledge to be “morally straight” has nothing to do with discriminating against homosexuals.

It scares the dickens out of me that a Supreme Court justice decided the Boy Scout case according to his personal feelings of what “morally straight” means to him, when the majority of justices decided Boy Scouts of America vs. Dale based on that old tattered document, the Constitution.

What scares me even more, though, is if my neighbors wonder if John Paul Stevens is the newest judge on “Idol.”