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A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., introduced legislation yesterday to make sure the Boy Scouts of America can use government facilities for gatherings, meetings and events.
The ”Support Our Scouts Act of 2005″ would protect the organization from attacks by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups challenging federal support for the BSA because the organization administers a religious oath and prohibits homosexuals as scout masters.
The bill says no federal law, directive, rule, instruction or order should limit any federal agency from providing support to the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. The legislation removes any doubt that federal agencies may welcome Scouts to hold meetings and go camping on federal property.
An ongoing lawsuit by the ACLU says federal support of the group, including about $2 million annually for the National Scout Jamboree, amounts to religious discrimination and violates the separation of church and state.
The Pentagon last year settled one such lawsuit by telling military bases around the world not to become direct sponsors of Boy Scout troops or Cub Scout dens. Military personnel can now sponsor Boy Scout groups only in their civilian capacity.
As WorldNetDaily reported, the threat of lawsuits by the ACLU has forced the BSA to pull the charters of thousands of scouting units from public schools.
In a letter sent to the BSA last month, the ACLU vowed to take legal action against public schools and other taxpayer-funded governmental agencies that charter Scout groups.
Frist says the legislation will allow the BSA to fulfill its mission without the distraction of defending itself against senseless attacks.
The bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., says the federal government should be making it easier for caring men and women to get involved in the lives of children – not harder.
”As an Eagle Scout, I saw firsthand the value of the Boy Scouts for millions of young men across the country,” said Alexander. ”I am proud to join Senator Frist in introducing this bill to ensure that they are treated fairly and continue to receive the federal support that the program has received in the past.”
Other Senate co-sponsors include Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning, Montana Republican Conrad Burns, Idaho Republican Larry Craig, Nevada Republican John Ensign, Florida Democrat Bill Nelson and Oregon Republican Gordon Smith.
The BSA is the nation’s largest youth organization and is run with the help of 1.3 million adult volunteers.
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