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Recently, the Jewish community of Santa Barbara, CA held its annual Jewish Festival in Oak Park. It's an event that's taken place, oh, forever, and usually not much comment is excited by it. You get several cute photos in the Sunday paper of kids enjoying the fun and whatnot, and that's about it.

This year, however, was different.

This year the B'nai B'rith organization, the largest contributor to the festival, threatened to withdraw their support should the only all-Jewish Boy Scouts troop in Santa Barbara be allowed to have their own booth, thus implying that a group that practices discrimination toward homosexuals is representative of the Jewish faith and society as a whole.

The Scouts were kicked out.

The word discrimination has become an autoantonym. The more common and accepted modern definition has a very negative connotation. It implies intolerance, injustice, racism and worse. Another, less accepted but equally valid application of the word means to single out to distinguish something. Using this definition of the word, one can imagine visiting a classy hotel, with such a high level of service (and attendant high cost) that it discriminates itself from all others.

Both groups involved in the local Jewish Festival brouhaha practiced discrimination. The Boy Scouts don't like openly gay men in their ranks, so they kick 'em out when discovered (and that's happened in Santa Barbara, too). The local Jewish community then discriminates against the Boy Scouts for their policies of discrimination, and they kick 'em out of their annual festival. All the while, the word "discrimination" is being bandied back and forth by nearly everyone imaginable. Vicious, unending cycle of misunderstanding is thus born.

It's time we removed the dirty word label from "discrimination". It's one of the worst examples of the English language being used loosely. Discrimination is merely the application of an entity's principles. As humans, we are all given a set of principles, or morals, by our parents and our society to help us determine good from evil, right from wrong, truth from falsehood. The application of those principles is, whether you want to admit it or not, discrimination.

For the most part, you who are reading this live in a society that values freedom. Freedom requires responsibility. One of those responsbilities includes protecting the freedom of others to maintain their principles while maintaining the integrity of your own. It's a fine line to walk, and too often the line is ignored in favor of the more negative form of "discrimination" being tossed around to mean "I'm not getting what I want, dammit, and it's all your (or your ancestors) fault!!". This, understandably, causes a great deal of tension amongst various groups that make up our society.

You know what? That's just the price of freedom folks. The way I see it, both the Jewish Festival organizers and the Scouts in Santa Barbara have acted badly. The only people truly discriminated against in this situation are the kids, who are going to get one version of the story from their parents, another from their rabbi, and another from their Scoutmasters. All because people are too willing to apply their principles without regard for others ... without, one might say, discrimination. That's sad.

And, for the record, I entirely agree with The United States Supreme Court in its ruling that the Scouts are a private organization and thus can exclude anyone they care to from their membership ranks.

Of course, the Scouts should NOT be acting so horrified that their practices are provoking so much reaction. You make a choice, be prepared to accept the consequences. Even negative ones. Is that so hard to understand at the highest levels of Scouting management?

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