Pentagon Stops Sponsorship of Boy Scouts

The Pentagon has announced it will warn its military bases to stop sponsoring Boy Scout troops as part of a settlement in case where the ACLU argued that the government’s support of an organization which professes “a duty to God” is “religious discrimination.”

The Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed in the suit against the Boy Scouts of America in 1999, charging the group with religious discrimination for swearing an oath to God and excluding homosexuals from leadership posts, a policy that was validated by the U.S. Supreme Court several years ago. The Chicago Public Schools, also named in the suit, has also agreed to stop sponsorship of Boy Scout troops.

"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. This agreement removes the Pentagon from direct sponsorship of Scout troops that engage in religious discrimination."

The settlement announced Monday will affect 422 Boy Scout troops, according to a Sun Times article. Greg Shields of The Boy Scouts of America based in Irving, Texas, said most of those 422 programs were on military bases. While the ruling prohibits the Pentagon from direct sponsorship of the 3.2 million-member organization, service members of the military may still lead Scout troops on their own time and the Boy Scouts are still permitted to meet on areas of military bases used by other civilian organizations.

Still undecided in the federal Chicago court is whether the Defense Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development can allocate $2 million in federal funds to support the Boy Scout Jamboree, an event held every four years that draws thousands of Boy Scouts nationwide.

Rep. Walter Jones is among conservatives who lament that the Pentagon has “cowered” or “bowed” to the ACLU. He said he has joined American legions in supporting the Boy Scouts and has sent a letter to President Bush opposing the settlement.

In the letter, Jones said the ACLU has "continuously attacked the Boy Scouts for one simple reason: it is an organization founded in a commitment to God and morality."

He wrote, "Many of the men and women in the military who live on these bases have children who may want to be a member of the Boy Scouts,” and asked why should a base be prohibited to sponsor a Boy Scouts chapter.

Jones wondered if chaplains on military bases will be the next targets.

"I know you share my passion to protect America and keep it a moral nation,” concluded Jones, “and I hope that you can urge a reconsideration of the Defense Department's decision to compromise its values to a group like the ACLU.”