President Bush waves to crowd before addressing 2005 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia (photo: bsajamboree.org)
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit dismissed a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the Defense Department from allowing the Boy Scouts of America to hold its National Jamboree every four years at Fort A.P. Hill in Fredericksburg, Va.
The ACLU, suing on behalf of individual named taxpayers, had argued allowing the Boy Scouts to hold the event on public property is an unconstitutional establishment of religion, because the organization’s membership is limited to those who believe in God.
The ACLU points out the Boy Scouts require members to swear an oath to “do my duty to God and my country.”
The court ruled Wednesday, however, the ACLU did not show standing to bring the lawsuit.
Peter Ferrara, general counsel of the American Civil Rights Union explained the ACLU could complain about the policy to Congress or the president, but it “had no business bringing a lawsuit over it and asking the courts to step in.”
The ACRU is a non-partisan legal policy organization launched in 1998 that says it is “dedicated to defending all the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment.”
The Defense Department, which sees holding the event at the fort as a boon to military recruitment, is expressly authorized to host the event by a federal statute enacted by Congress, Ferrara points out.
Seven Presidents have attended and spoken at the jamboree, beginning with Franklin Roosevelt in 1937. President Bush spoke at the 2005 event, attended by more than 40,000 scouts. The next jamboree is scheduled for 2010 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.
As WND reported in 2005, 90 members of Congress filed a federal appeals court brief declaring support for the Defense Department’s sponsorship of the jamboree.
The brief asserted the Defense Department’s support comes in the form of “non-religious supplies and services.”
“The military’s rental of forklifts and trucks, transportation and military equipment, restoration of Fort A.P. Hill after the Jamboree, and provision of other secular services is clearly ‘neutral and nonideological,'” the brief said. “The only possible message that the military’s aid can be viewed as conveying is that patriotism, self-reliance, physical fitness and support of the military are positive things.”
Also in 2005, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., introduced legislation to make sure the Boy Scouts can use government facilities for gatherings, meetings and events.
In 2004, the Pentagon settled a 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 WND reported, the threat of lawsuits by the ACLU has forced the BSA to pull the charters of thousands of scouting units from public schools.