Book Review: On My Honor

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Perry, Rick. On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For. Macon, GA: Stroud & Hall Publishers, 2008.


Would the USA be a greater nation if more people lived by the following ideals:

[list_item]The Scout Motto (“Be Prepared”)?[/list_item]
[list_item]The Scout Law (“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent”)?[/list_item]
[list_item]The Scout Oath (“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”)?[/list_item]

Undoubtedly, YES!

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) are a proven character factory. They set boys on a course to achievement by cultivating life skills and competency. They prepare boys for a life of honorable service by creating and rewarding merit, and it is merit–in the end–that creates honor.

Yet, some want the BSA destroyed. Legal assaults on the Scouts span 30 years now, especially from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Governor Rick Perry’s book, “On My Honor” chronicles these assaults while celebrating the enduring legacy of the BSA. He wants us to understand the positive impact scouting has on our culture and to know why the Scouts are worth defending.

The Author

Governor Rick PerryRick Perry, an Eagle Scout, is the governor of Texas (his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President is beyond the scope of this review). He believes his path to achievement began with scouting. It helped him to define himself and set healthy life goals. Perry defined scouting’s mission not as entertainment for boys but as mind and character development through a program of work and learning.


Content Summary

After some personal reflections, Perry outlined the origins of scouting in America, which rose out of a simple “good turn” done by a boy in London in 1909 who refused a reward because he was “a scout.” The American, millionaire William Boyce, was impressed enough to bring scouting to the states.

Next, Perry laid out the battles the Scouts have been forced into by organized leftist culture-warriors like the ACLU–battles about God, the First Amendment, public access rights, and teaching boys to be “morally straight.”

In 1976, an Oregon girl charged the Scouts with discrimination because she was denied membership in a Cub Scout pack. Countless lawsuits have followed over the reference to God in the Scout Oath, and over the right of Scouts to set their own terms for Scoutmaster leadership roles. The Scouts have won most of these cases, but at great cost.

In 1991, Bradford W. Seabourn, an assistant scoutmaster and atheist, wrote a letter to his council defining God as “nothing.” He wrote: “When I say the Pledge of Allegiance, I pledge my oath to ‘One Nation Under Nothing.’ When I say the Scout Oath, I promise to ‘do my duty, to nothing’ and my country… When I say the Scout Law, I say a Scout is reverent to ‘nothing.’”

To stay consistent with their principles and retain integrity in the oath, they denied Seabourn’s registration as an adult leader. Seabourn sued. The BSA side was upheld since they are a private organization. The Scouts were not forced to change their “duty to God” requirements.

Another series of cases against the Scouts involving homosexuality culminated in the famous Dale case (involving an openly active homosexual who could no longer be in Scouting) which was ultimately settled by the Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 decision in 2000 favoring the free association rights of the Scouts.

Since losing in the Supreme Court, homosexual agenda advocates have formed a coalition of groups to escalate attacks against the Boy Scouts at the state and local levels. They have pressured companies to withdraw support for the Scouts, demanded that United Way organizations drop the Scouts from their fundraising drives and filed countless law suits against local governments to try to force them to prohibit the Scouts from using parks and public buildings. A bill in Congress to remove the Boy Scout’s “national charter” was even attempted. The ACLU has also managed to deprive the Scouts from recruiting resources and public fund-raising avenues (excluding Scouts from community charity campaigns) that are freely used by other groups, including radical homosexual activist and atheist groups.

Turning to more positive themes, Perry offered a litany of heroic stories involving scouts. Each story illustrated the life-saving benefits of practical training and preparation for emergencies as well as the brave unselfish spirit to act fast while others often would not. For example:

Matthew Mills was born with a skeletal impairment confining him to a wheelchair. Nevertheless, at age eleven in 2004, he jumped into a pool to save a 20-month old baby while other adults were oblivious to the danger. Later, Matthew averred, “All I was thinking about was saving him, getting his head above water… I wasn’t thinking about me.”

Michael McAnelly, 12-year-old Scout, acted quickly and calmly to save his brother’s life at the beach. A newspaper reported that he just did “what he had been taught.”

Anthony Marzocca, age 14, showed quick thinking courage on two occasions and was awarded the Honor Medal from the Boy Scouts of America Court of Honor. Anthony explained, “There was no way I could sit there and not do anything.”


The final three chapters survey the legacy of Scouting and it’s hopeful place in our future. Sad to say, in today’s culture, teaching boys to be “morally straight” is almost forbidden. Here’s how the Scout Handbook describes what “morally straight” means:

“…to be a person of strong character… your relationships with others should be honest and open. You should respect and defend the rights of all people. Be clean in your speech and actions, and remain faithful in your religious beliefs. The values you practice as a Scout will help you shape a life of virtue and self-reliance.”

In addition to the inner virtues that Scouting promotes, external virtues are often center-stage (tying knots, building fires, pitching tents, leading community projects, overcoming obstacles and finishing what you start). Perry exclaimed, “Scouting is about raising young men whose actions live up to their words.” (p. 145).

Scouting does not reward failure with badges, but it also doesn’t condemn failure. It teaches perseverance as well as respect for authority in the form of parents, teachers, clergy, and duly elected officials. Scouting does not always succeed but their aim is to help young boys begin the relentless pursuit of good.

The ongoing assaults on the Scouts are just one small front in a larger culture war, and the aggressors are coming mostly from the cultural left. Many of them are pushing us ever closer to a “One Nation Under Nothing” mentality. Let’s not go there.

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The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

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