Why mission creep is creepy
The anti-defamation league is dedicated to opposing hatred, particu-larly hatred of Jews. Its recent activities include support for abortion and gay rights, backing the effort to remove Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore from the bench in the Ten Commandments case, and opposing school vouchers in Washington, D.C.
The Southern Poverty Law Center was also created to focus on hate and hate groups. Recently it involved itself in the Sierra Club board of directors elections, demanded the elimination of the Chief Illiniwek sports mascot at the University of Illinois, sued to get Judge Moore off the bench, and came out against the proposed amendment to prohibit gay marriage. Its subsidiary, Tolerance.org, made news by featuring an essay complaining that the Lord of the Rings movies are too white.
Call this mission creep. A group starts out with a clear mandate that commands respect across most of the political spectrum. Gradually it moves to a broader and vaguer agenda, typically heading left. John O'Sullivan, columnist and former editor of National Review, offers us an explanation, which he calls O'Sullivan's First Law: "All organizations that are not actually right wing will over time become left wing." As examples, he cites the American Civil Liberties Union, the Ford Foundation, and the Episcopal Church.
Many previously neutral and unassailable groups are now ripe examples of O'Sullivan's First Law. The League of Women Voters calls for the defeat of the gay marriage amendment and the repeal of the "partial-birth" abortion law. It continues to describe itself as "nonpartisan, community based." This implies detachment and evenhandedness, but in truth, the league is now committed to the cultural left and is part of the abortion lobby.
Girl Scouts. Though most people still think the YWCA is a sort of health club or urban spa, it too is part of the cultural left. It joined the National Organization for Women's "Fight the Right" campaign, backed Martha Burk's campaign against Augusta National Golf Club, and opposed school vouchers in D.C. It denies being pro-abortion but supports Roe v. Wade and backs public funding for abortion.
The leftward migration of the Girl Scouts came to light with the recent flap over the cozy relationship between Planned Parenthood and the Bluebonnet Scout council in Waco, Texas. The council gave a "woman of distinction" award to the local chief of Planned Parenthood, who runs an abortion clinic in Waco, thus dragging the local Scouts into the abortion wars on the pro-abortion-rights side. The Bluebonnet council also endorsed and helped to staff Planned Parenthood's "Nobody's Fool," an annual half-day sex-education program. The program uses a booklet, "It's Perfectly Normal," offering sympathetic treatment of abortion, masturbation, and homosexuality. The booklet lists nine reasons for having an abortion, including "the female feels she was not ready to become pregnant" and "the female did not intend or want to become pregnant." The Waco council unendorsed the sex program, quieting protests, but the national CEO of the Girl Scouts, Kathy Cloninger, said on NBC that the Scouts conduct many programs with Planned Parenthood around the country and would continue them.
Leo's amendment to O'Sullivan's First Law: Any organization with "women" or "girls" in its title will tend to become part of the cultural left in general and the abortion lobby in particular.
United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations are increasingly part of the feminist left and the abortion lobby, too, regardless of their actual mandate. UNESCO declared that "Governments should make abortion legal, safe, and affordable," prompting Tommy Thompson, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to send the organization a letter asking what abortion has to do with UNESCO's mission to promote education, science, and culture.
UNICEF, the U.N.'s children's relief agency, sailed off in a new direction under its executive director, Carol Bellamy, a New York feminist activist. The previous director, Jim Grant, steered clear of controversy and saved the lives of up to 25 million children by focusing on children's diseases and their causes. In Bellamy's regime, sexual issues and feminist perspectives are dominant, and boys get little attention. Bellamy has been careful to avoid UNICEF approval of abortions, but critics point out that UNICEF has endorsed, and helped write, statements calling for the legalization of abortion and for an increase in access to abortion.
If you're tempted to support any of these groups, it's best to remember O'Sullivan's First Law and find out what they really stand for.
This story appears in the April 12, 2004 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.