In 1897 mark twain cabled a newspaper to set the record straight: "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated," he quipped. This year, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is trying to get out the same message. Immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and other gay activist groups went into action. The Court affirmed the right of the BSA as a private association to exclude avowed homosexuals from leadership. So gay activists began an aggressive campaign to apply economic pressures to the Scouts.According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a Lambda attorney identified three areas of pressure: People resigning from scouting, and parents and organizations withdrawing their support.It appears this effort included feeding disinformation to the public. The New York Times and its syndicated news service spread the falsehoods under the headline "Scouts' Successful Ban on Gays Is Followed by Loss in Support" (Aug. 29). In an earlier article, the Times reported that the financial defections "were minimal." But by the end of August, the newspaper said, government and organizational support had "slipped markedly." The Times article was plagued by vague and misleading numbers ("hundreds of thousands of dollars" withdrawn by Chase Manhattan Bank and Textron Inc.; "dozens of United Ways … cut off money"). And it asserted that as a result of BSA policy many cities were banning the Scouts from using parks and school facilities and that corporations were cutting donations.As it turns out, fewer than a dozen (not "dozens") United Way chapters had withdrawn support. Chase Manhattan Bank announced it was continuing financial support for the Scouts. Textron had no established pattern of giving to the Scouts in the first place. The Lambda Web site had listed these and other companies, such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and First Interstate Bank, as "disassociating" from the Scouts. But phone calls from the watchdog news organization WorldNetDaily to these corporations proved that the information was largely erroneous. (Lambda has since revised the list on its Web site.)Back at the campfire, the news is pretty good: Most corporations and municipalities are holding steady in the face of pressure from activists. The Boy Scouts are not so much in a jam as they are in a Jamboree. In gay-friendly San Francisco, despite negative publicity surrounding the Dale case, area enrollment in the Scouts has grown 28 percent in the last two years. Nationally it has reached an all-time high of 5 million youth members and 1.2 million adults. And the financial picture is so good that the National Eagle Scout Association's Robert Gates wrote members, "Every council is enjoying improved financial support, to the extent that many are making capital improvements in their camps and council service centers for the first time in years."Four observations:• Corporations and municipalities have been the focus of much of the news, but the voices that really count are those of the parents enrolling their children in record numbers.• Reporters and readers, even at the nation's most prominent newspapers, can become conduits for disinformation. When sources supply "facts" that fit with what they want or expect to see—indeed, when those facts seem most plausible—reporters and readers need to be intentionally skeptical.• Legal victories are legal, not cultural, victories. Rights may be protected by the courts, but the hearts and minds of citizens can be won by the media-savvy. Be prepared.• Americans, by a vast majority, do not want gays to live under the fear of physical threat or job loss, but they also believe that avowed, active homosexuals are not the role models they want to lead their virtue-building institutions. Gay activists and their sympathetic journalists should recognize that tolerance does not require endorsement of a cultural blank check.

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