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`Rights’ of organizations vs. individuals is hairy issue

SHARE `Rights’ of organizations vs. individuals is hairy issue

A California girl, Katrina Yeaw, has an appeal pending before that state's Supreme Court in a bid to open Boy Scouts to girl members. She has as much "right" as her brother, Daniel, to be a Boy Scout, the lawsuit claims.

No doubt you can find that in the Constitution.That appeal will be heard after the court renders a decision in a different case, one filed by a gay man who wants to become a Scout leader in Contra Costa County. That also is his "right," despite BSA policy to the contrary.

But what about an organization's rights?

The issue goes much deeper than Scouting, it concerns the fundamental freedom of any private entity - be it Little League, civic and social clubs, private schools, performing groups, churches - to adopt standards and policies that do not infringe upon others yet require members to adhere to fixed principles.

That is the legitimate right of organizational choice and self-determination. Those who desire not to comply may find or originate other alternatives.

Lawsuits pushing for "rights" that are not entitlements at all but merely personal desires based on differing beliefs, values or agendas are sometimes absurd. The law too often is not a protector of legitimate rights but a tool in obtaining personal privileges.

Consider a mythical example that rings too true.

Some in the world still mock the hairless, despite the charm of Michael Jordan, Sinead O'Connor, Yul Brynner, Charles Barkley, Telly Savalas, half the Deseret News staff and others. So let's pretend a group of skinheads gets together to form a private, nonprofit political/therapy group called NOHAIR (Now Organized Help Available for Increased Respect).

NOHAIR's mission includes tracking political, social and business issues that impact the hairing-impaired and taking stands on those issues; lobbying for more hairless heads in TV commercials and newscasts; and providing therapeutic self-help programs to those afflicted with low self-esteem or discrimination due to their exposed pates. Most minority groups are similarly represented on legal, political, social and promotional fronts in some organized fashion.

Bald men and women stand to benefit from this unified show of strength. The only qualification for membership is the attainment of hairlessness by heredity. Self-induced skinheads need not apply. This is an exclusive group.

Well, the organization grows and prospers - even though the hair of its members does not. Soon it has chapters nationwide, with elected national and local leaders. Before long, people with hairy heads are looking at these shiny people as sheik, hip, etc. Trends and styles change, and skin is in (witness the NBA of late - copycats).

But NOHAIR stays true to its roots and stated mission to help the hairing-impaired. Shaggy people can unite and form their own organization, certainly. They are free to organize, to band together and to promote their outdated hairy look.

Yet they see NOHAIR's growth and success and want to influence its members' thinking and political positions. Not satisfied leaving them to themselves, they apply for membership. A few former NOHAIR members who defect and have hair transplants are forced to leave the group - but they can't leave it alone. They are driven by an inner itch, a seething need to change the course of the organization toward their liking.

So they clamor for media attention and file lawsuits, claiming a violation of constitutional rights and howling about discrimination and lack of "freedoms." Or they bring in an outside group to audit NOHAIR's alleged violation of unfettered personal expression - growing hair.

They holler "discrimination!" at every turn while struggling to reform the focus and mission of NOHAIR into their own image. In their arrogance and intolerance, they push vehemently for organizational change rather than forming or joining a group that better conforms with their thinking and outdated appearance.

They give no thought to establishing their own organization, HAIRY (Hypocrites All Inclusive for Reforming You). They don't want freedom at all, actually, but only organizational conformity to their own ideals, values, beliefs and scraggly appearance.

The issue ends up in court, and after compelling and highly publicized arguments is ruled in NOHAIR's favor by a bald judge. But an appeal is pending before a full-headed magistrate. The outlook of having the original ruling upheld looks grim for NOHAIR. It is obvious by his perm the appeals judge cares a lot about his "do." A final appeal would go to the Supreme Court, with only two thin-haired judges.

NOHAIR attorneys are tearing their eyebrows out trying to overcome the built-in political biases. It will be a tough legal fight.

So goes the right of NOHAIR to pursue its own mission and values. And so go the rights of other entities in real life to do the same. Religious freedom, academic freedom and discrimination exist but also are often public rallying cries to gain sympathy and support for a cause. They sometimes belie private lives at odds with an institution's principles, policies and practices.

But admitting that or going elsewhere to promote change means relinquishing the spotlight of martyrdom and its accompanying adoration in some "broad-minded" circles. It means unmasking the intolerant hypocrite within.