House Passes Resolution Commending Boy Scouts

The House passed on Saturday a non-binding resolution recognizing the service efforts of Boy Scouts of America while the Senate did not pass a bill to permit federal support for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who sponsored the measure, said Congress would work "to defend the Boy Scout's ability to continue the fine work that they have done for nearly a century,” reported the Associated Press.

The resolution, passed by a 391-3 vote, comes a few days after the Pentagon told its military bases to stop direct sponsorship of Boy Scouts as part of a settlement in a 1999 suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. The ACLU, which also named Chicago Public Schools in the suit, argued the Pentagon’s sponsorship of Boy Scouts amounted to discrimination since the organization has members swear an oath of “duty to God” and do not allow homosexuals in leadership positions.

Every boy scout takes an oath reading: “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.”

"If our Constitution's promise of religious liberty is to be a reality, the government should not be administering religious oaths or discriminating based on religious beliefs," said ACLU attorney Adam Schwartz in a press release.

Still undecided is the Pentagon’s sponsorship of the Boy Scouts’ 2005 Jamboree, an event held every four years, and the Department of Defense’s allocation of funds for the civil service group. The Pentagon spends $2 million every year to prepare the Caroline County base for the event, according to Schwartz.

According to Liberty Counsel, a national public-interest firm, the Pentagon did not change its policy in the settlement because military personnel are still allowed to sponsor Boy Scout activities on military bases on their own time.

Matthew D. Staver, president and general counsel of the group, said the ACLU had “no moral compass” when it comes to picking its cases. He said the ACLU is "trying to shut down the Boy Scouts" but are involved in case asking “that juvenile boys have the right to cavort nude in public parks.”

“Honoring God and pledging to remain pure are pretty good foundational values,” he stated. “Defending juvenile boys who want to cavort nude in a public park is ludicrous.”

The Pentagon’s agreement to the settlement has also spurred other measures in favor of the Boy Scouts. Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-1st, has co-sponsored a House resolution in support of the relationship between the Scouts and the Pentagon and Rep. J.D., R-Ariz., who called ACLU’s challenge a "nuisance lawsuit," said he was urging Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to reconsider the Pentagon's position.

"Scouting values, military values, citizenship values, a respect and reverence for a creator are not a violation of the doctrine of church and state," Hayworth, who was an Eagle Scout, told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, on late Saturday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., R-TN, introduced the “Save Our Scouts” bill which would have supported Scout activities such as “holding meetings, jamborees, camporees, or other scouting activities on federal property, or hosting or sponsoring any official event of such organization.” The bill did not pass.

“The Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts promote character and leadership. By instilling in our youth values such as honor, duty, integrity, and charity, these programs prepare our young people for the ethical and moral choices they will face throughout their lives,” said Frist on Saturday.
He noted that while “Americans are grateful that we are free to worship as we choose without government interference or fear of persecution,” he said he felt “the ACLU’s continued attacks on the Boy Scouts are starting to become its own form of persecution.”

Similar responses came from Alliance Defense Fund, which deals with cases involving religious liberty.

“The ACLU is an oppressor, not a protector, of religious liberty,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb in a Nov. 16 statement.

“If you’ve got a problem with the Boy Scouts on military bases because the Scouts rely upon God, then you’ve got a problem with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both of which rely upon God,” McCaleb said. “This is exactly the sort of thing American voters overwhelmingly rejected on November 2.”