The American military cannot survive the challenges of the 21st century without the preparatory support of the Boy Scouts of America. Millions of our bravest heroes in uniform – thousands who have given their lives in every war since World War I – wore their first uniform as a Boy Scout. A U.S. Marine now in Iraq – who also was my Scoutmaster when I was growing up – once told me that he became a Marine because he had first been a Scout.

Apparently seeking the annihilation of our nation’s defensive capacity along with its moral character, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Monday that U.S. military bases will no longer be able to sponsor Boy Scout troops. It seems that our nation’s military leadership has broken wartime policy to settle with the terrorists in the ACLU.

It is the Boy Scout Oath to which the ACLU responded by filing legal claims against the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Chicago Board of Education in 1999. “On my honor,” goes the Oath, “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.”

Following its new settlement with the ACLU, the Department of Defense will be sending word to American military bases worldwide that sponsorship of the Boy Scouts is strictly prohibited. Though Boy Scouts – primarily the children of service members – have long met on military bases in association with a base sponsor, the days of political correctness have brought that arrangement to an end. And this is the George W. Bush / Donald Rumsfeld Department of Defense that we’re talking about.

Like an array of private organizations that, of necessity, have dealings with our nation’s armed forces, the Boy Scouts adhere to beliefs and practices that fall outside the sanction of public policy. No one on our nation’s military bases is coerced into supporting the Boy Scouts, though, no doubt, members of our armed forces hold the Scouts in much higher esteem than they do the ACLU.

It is true that Congress awarded a national charter – an honorary statement that Congress supports the patriotic, educational or scientific goals of an organization and that the organization is guaranteed rights to its name in perpetuity – to the Boy Scouts of America in 1916. Congress did this in full recognition of the Scouts’ right to discriminate.

But it isn’t as though membership in the Boy Scouts of America is restricted to evangelical Protestants only. The Boy Scouts are as ecumenical as organizations come. Among 29 religious groups that award patches to Scouts through the Religious Relationships Committee are Armenians, Baha’i, Baptist, Buddhist, Christian Science, Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Lutheran, Maher Baba, Moravian, Mormon, Presbyterian, Quaker, Roman Catholic, United Methodist and Zoroastrian.

But the Boy Scouts do insist on belief in God. Over the years since the Boy Scouts of America was founded, several hundred atheists have been told that they could not serve in positions of Scout leadership. Is this inconsistent with the principles by which our nation’s military and government operate?

Just because military bases sponsor Scout troops doesn’t make those troops an extension of government. Thousands of police and fire departments, cities and schools also sponsor Boy Scout troops. The Boy Scouts remain a private organization – a partnership with government does not automatically render an organization public domain.

It’s also worth noting that our nation’s military itself administers an Oath of Military Service to new members of the armed forces, that, like the Presidential, Congressional, and Supreme Court Oaths of Office, concludes with the words, “So help me God.” In fact, all high-ranking government officers must swear an oath in accordance with Section 3331 of Title V of the U.S. Code that includes that little invocation to the Almighty.

Further, military bases feature a vast array of religious options for the personnel and families who live and work there. In recent years, the nation has discussed the admission of Wiccan chaplains to the military, and Muslims are well represented in the chaplaincy despite the sensitive nature of our present war.

But the Department of Defense cannot expect to win wars abroad if it is capitulating to the demands of political correctness at home. Our armed forces must be aligned with the standards of character that make America worth fighting for.

Americans who care about our nation’s moral condition and national security must contact the Department of Defense and tell them to stand up for the Boy Scouts. Send a comment to Secretary Rumsfeld – tell him that he must do everything possible to reverse Monday’s settlement with the ACLU.

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