Editor’s note: Hans Zeiger’s powerful new book, “Get Off My Honor: The Assault on the Boy Scouts of America,” is now available for a limited time in ShopNetDaily.
The Boy Scouts of America is 95 years old as it gathers this week for the national Jamboree. Some 31,000 Scouts from nearly 900 troops and 7,000 adult volunteers will show up for the event at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. Most Americans regard the Boy Scouts highly. They respect the Scouts’ code of honor and admire the title of “Eagle Scout.”
It’s no secret, of course, that some corners of America no longer look so favorably on the Boy Scouts. The American Civil Liberties Union has hit the Boy Scouts with an endless barrage of attacks in court. Local United Ways have withdrawn funding in many cities. City councils, school boards, and even some churches, have voted to expel the Boy Scouts from use of their facilities. It’s all because the Boy Scouts stand by their time-tested policy of excluding atheists and homosexuals, in accordance with the Scout Oath and Law.
Now, the federal government is divided about its support for Scouting. Congress issued a federal charter to the Boy Scouts in 1916, commending the Boy Scouts for its patriotic and educational mission. Every president dating back to William Howard Taft has been the honorary president of the Boy Scouts, and Theodore Roosevelt was called the Chief Scout Citizen. Most of the honorary Scout presidents have spoken at Jamborees, including President Bush in 2001 and again this year. Boy Scouts have always had good relations with national parks and forests, and have taken a special interest in the nation’s Armed Forces.
But the federal relationship to Scouting was first called into question during the Clinton administration, on the grounds that the BSA might be in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.
And last year, Department Of Defense attorneys decided to prohibit military base sponsorship of Boy Scout troops as settlement of a 5-year-old lawsuit filed by the ACLU. At issue was the Scouts’ “duty to God” contained in the Oath, which requires belief in a higher power. The ACLU claimed that the Pentagon was in violation of the First Amendment by its association with the Scouts.
And earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that the Department Of Defense cannot support future Boy Scout Jamborees. If the ruling stands, next week’s Jamboree will be the last on a military base.
So this week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist reintroduced the Save Our Scouts bill, S.642, to reaffirm the federal government’s relationship with Scouting. Co-sponsored by 52 senators from both sides of the aisle, including Republican Sens. Elizabeth Dole, Lamar Alexander and Ted Stevens, and Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu and Bill Nelson, the Save Our Scouts Bill clarifies federal laws to prevent discrimination by any government agency – local, state, or federal – against the Boy Scouts of America. “It removes any doubt that federal agencies may welcome Scouts to hold meetings and go camping on federal property,” Sen. Frist said Friday.
Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis is sponsoring the House version of the Save Our Scouts bill, H.R. 1337, and she is joined by 83 cosponsors.
It is a desperate measure, but a necessary one. Government should not have to intervene to protect a private organization like the Boy Scouts from attacks. Americans shouldn’t put up with such attacks in the first place. Yet the war on the Boy Scouts has become so vicious that Congress has no choice but to affirm, as the U.S. Supreme Court did in 2000, that the Boy Scouts have the constitutional right to adhere to the Scout Oath and Law.
Not only that, but government at every level ought to support and encourage the work of the Boy Scouts. Government is “we the people.” If we cannot allow public-private partnerships between the collective body of the people and a private group that benefits the people, something is terribly wrong.
Government – from school boards to state legislatures to federal agencies – ought to reach out to the Boy Scouts as it always has in the past to build bridges of cooperation in our nation’s communities. Seeing as the ACLU is in the way of a thousand good turns, it is time for Congress to act. Citizens must contact their senators and representatives and urge them to support the Save Our Scouts bill.