Last month, the U.S. Department of Defense settled a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union to ban military bases from sponsoring Boy Scout troops. Thousands of Americans responded with outrage, and both houses of Congress have initiated action to defend the Scouts from the ACLU. Americans who care about the future of Scouting and traditional values ought to contact their member of Congress and tell them to protect the Boy Scouts.
Following on the Pentagon decision, the Portland School Board in Oregon has announced a proposed policy that discriminates against the Boy Scouts by banning the character development organization from recruiting students in Portland schools. The proposed policy would prohibit non-profit organizations like the Scouts, Little League, and the local parks and recreation department from distributing literature or recruiting during school hours. It is the latest blow against the embattled Boy Scouts.
Over the past seven years, the Portland School District has spent over a quarter-million dollars defending its policy that allows the Scouts to recruit in the classroom. The Scouts themselves have spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to help cover district costs.
The legal battle began in 1996 after Portland Cub Scout parents went into a first-grade classroom to hand out wrist bands reading, “Come Join Cub Scout Pack 16! Round-Up for New Cub Scouts for Boys in Grades 1-5.” Six-year old Remington Powell went home that day excited to join the Cub Scouts with his friends. But his mother, atheist Nancy Powell, told him he could not join because he was forbidden to submit to the Scout Oath that includes the word, “duty to God.” Ms. Powell spent the next two years harassing school-district administrators at every level – school, school board, and state – to get them to adopt a policy similar to those already applied in cities like Oakland, California and San Francisco.
In 1998, Ms. Powell called on the American Civil Liberties Union to file a lawsuit against the Portland schools, alleging discrimination against her son. On the Tom Leykis radio talk show, Ms. Powell fumed: “I, personally, am on a campaign – again, personally on a campaign to avoid the Boy Scouts in every possible way … the Boy Scouts of America don’t belong in public schools. They are a religious organization, and we have separation of church and state.”
After a court told the Portland schools that Scouts could continue to recruit in classrooms, Powell and the ACLU appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals where the suit remains pending today. But it appears that the Portland School Board will now preempt the decision of the state court by proceeding to ban Boy Scout recruitment. The defensive legal battle against Ms. Powell and the ACLU has been long and torturous, and political correctness seems to be the path of least resistance.
Already, the Portland School Board has temporarily banned Boy Scout recruiting while the Powell lawsuit is in court. Local Scout Executive Don Cornell reports that troop membership is down 10 percent from last spring after the district began enforcing the temporary ban. Now, it appears that the Portland School Board is on the verge of giving up on the Boy Scouts altogether.
At hearings on the subject last week, the anti-Scouts were out in full force. Homosexual and atheist activists complained that Boy Scout literature in the classroom is fundamentally discriminatory.
But it is this ongoing campaign to get the Boy Scouts out of the public square that is not only discriminatory against a fine youth organization, it also does grave harm to the very foundations of the American way of life.
Why is it that the Left is so desperately eager to force the Boy Scouts off of public property? The answer is that the Left will stop at nothing to plant America itself upon an entirely different basis than that the Boy Scouts teaches must exist.
In fact, if ever a statement of self-government was written, it is the Boy Scout Oath: “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.”
Self-government is the basis of constitutional government. If we don’t watch out, if we don’t protect the Boy Scouts from further attacks, we will lose our ability to perpetuate self-government.
It is time for Americans to speak up. We must contact the Portland School Board immediately and remind them that the Boy Scouts benefit the lives of students and the community as a whole. E-mail Portland Superintendent Vicki Phillips and tell her to protect the Boy Scouts!