Matthew Franck: The Boy Scouts and Neuhaus’ Law


Matthew Franck at First Things recalls an observation of the later Fr. Richard Neuhaus which he finds applicable to the recent attempt by the Boy Scouts of America to placate their gay activist critics:

"...Already one of the pressure-group leaders who has brought the Scouts to the brink of this change is warning that it does not go far enough:“It’s a step in the right direction, and good to see that B.S.A. is softening its position,” [Zach Wahls] said. “But under the policy change, it will still be possible for some units to discriminate.”

This is a perfect occasion for a reminder of Neuhaus’ Law, named for First Thingsfounding editor Richard John Neuhaus, who coined it in a “Public Square” entry in the January 1997 issue titled “The Unhappy Fate of Optional Orthodoxy.” Here is the Law as Fr. Neuhaus himself stated it: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

As Neuhaus went on to explain, with his usual trenchant insight:

With the older orthodoxy it is possible to disagree, as in having an argument. Evidence, reason, and logic count, in principle at least. Not so with the new orthodoxy. Here disagreement is an intolerable personal affront. It is construed as a denial of others, of their experience of who they are. It is a blasphemous assault on that most high god, “My Identity.” Truth-as-identity is not appealable beyond the assertion of identity. In this game, identity is trumps.

Just so."