Scouting changes. Beginning tomorrow, Jan. 1, the Boy Scouts will allow openly homosexual boys in their troops. Jan. 1 also marks the official beginning of the group TrailLife USA, a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts. Neither TrailLife USA nor the Boy Scouts are releasing national membership numbers yet, but individual regions are providing a look at how things are going. TrailLife USA, for example, has pre-chartered 25 units in the Dallas area alone. The group will likely come out of the gate with hundreds of units nationwide. So far, the Boy Scouts say they’ve only seen a few units in each council fail to re-charter. But with nearly 300 councils nationwide, a few in each council adds up. What might hurt Boy Scout membership more is a significant rise in membership dues, also implemented in 2013.
Tipping point? According to a new Pew study, 51 percent of Americans now favor homosexual marriage. By comparing polling data to voter data, we know some people answer pollsters differently than they vote in the privacy of a voting booth. In a recent election in North Carolina, for example, there was a six-point differential. Nonetheless, these data are significant. It’s interesting that the biggest rise in support for homosexual marriage in the past couple of years has come among white evangelicals. Support for homosexual marriage among blacks has actually declined.
Parental rights. A neo-Nazi in New Jersey wanted to name his child Eva Braun, after Adolph Hitler’s infamous mistress. When New Jersey social workers got wind of that decision, they took the child away from him. The state had other good reasons, too; Heath Campbell has fathered nine children with five different women. “I’m not allowed to have children because I’m a Nazi,” Campbell told a local newspaper. “That’s what they’re saying. Well, I’ll stop making them when they stop taking them.” I have no sympathy for this guy or his ideology, but this story does raise an interesting question: Does the government have the right to take children away from their father because of what he believes? Since the father is unemployed, you might argue that the social workers are basing their decision not just on his ideology, but also on his indigence. But being unemployed is not a crime. (Let me be clear: I’m not defending the guy. Take a look his photo, and you’ll likely be totally creeped out, but parsing the issues here is not as easy as it at first looks.)
Most admired. No real surprises on the Gallup organization’s annual survey of most admired men and women. President Barack Obama topped the men’s list, as he has every year since 2008. The sitting president has topped the list almost every year since Gallup started doing the survey in 1946. Neither is it much of a surprise that Hillary Clinton topped the women’s list. She started appearing on the list in the early ’90s and has been at the top of the list for the past 12 years. The surprises come further down. Nelson Mandela would have appeared on the list, but because he died late in the year, he was no longer eligible for inclusion. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made the list this year, and Billy Graham is on the list for a record 57th time. Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Pope Francis made the top-ten list this year, also. George W. Bush actually saw his ranking rise. He now ranks above both Bill Clinton and Billy Graham, suggesting that the American people have forgotten, forgiven, or now see differently some of the decisions he made that caused his approval ratings to plummet during his last years in office.