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President Clinton appointed Joycelyn Elders as U.S. surgeon general. But who appointed her as national nanny?

No one, of course. But that hasn't kept Elders from lecturing the country on what she deems proper conduct even though her ideas on morality are often at odds with those of most Americans.As the latest case in point, take the surgeon general's remarks this week in an interview with USA Weekend magazine. Among other things, she insisted that the Girl Scouts should admit lesbians and the Boy Scouts should admit homosexuals.

Never mind that the Girl Scouts have never barred girls or leaders who are lesbians.

Never mind that the courts have upheld the legality of the Boy Scouts' national policy denying membership to homosexuals.

Never mind that many religions condemn homosexuality and lesbianism as major sins and deny membership to those guilty of this sin.

Never mind either that for many centuries a wide variety of nations and cultures have outlawed homosexuality long before its association with AIDS because of the great harm it does to society's basic unit, the family.

Despite all that, Elders evidently would have Americans believe that she knows best.

Though Elders is entitled to her opinions and has a right to express them, she has no professional expertise on what is essentially a matter of individual morals and ethics. Consequently, her opinions on how various private groups should treat sexual deviants deserve no special weight or attention.

One final point: No public official can be more effective than the public confidence he or she enjoys. The more lectures Elders delivers along the lines of the one this week about the Scouts, the more she erodes confidence in the wisdom of her values and the strength of her judgment.