The Boy Scouts of America is pulling the charters of thousands of scouting units from public schools in an effort to spare them from lawsuits threatened by the American Civil Liberties Union.

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, claiming their sponsorship amounts to religious discrimination and violates the separation of church and state.

The ACLU specifically takes issue with the Scouts’ pledge of allegiance to God and country and the organization’s prohibition of homosexuals as scout masters.

BSA national spokesman Gregg Shields told the Baptist Press the organization was pulling its charters from schools “as a matter of stewardship.”

“We obviously don’t want that [expensive lawsuits against schools] to happen,” Shields told the news agency. “Instead, the Boy Scouts have tried to protect the resources of our education partners by moving our charter from public schools to other community-based organizations such as parent-teacher organizations or Salvation Army units or nearby religious organizations.”

Shields stressed the loss of its charter does not necessarily mean the scout troop can no longer meet at the school.

“Boy Scout troops will still have the same rights as any other community-based group to meet in school buildings, but the charter will not be held by the school administration,” he said.

Shields hopes churches and other community-based groups will make up for the lost charters, estimated to be in the thousands.

The BSA is the largest youth organization and is run with the help of 1.3 million adult volunteers.

The BSA has learned to take the ACLU’s threat of litigation seriously, having been in its crosshairs for 25 years. The ACLU has sued the BSA 14 times on similar grounds, according to Shields.

The BSA prevailed in the most prominent lawsuit when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 to uphold a New Jersey troop’s removal of an assistant scoutmaster after it became known he was openly homosexual.

This legal victory emboldened the ACLU and homosexual opponents to increase pressure on the organization.

As WorldNetDaily reported last fall, the Pentagon agreed to start warning its bases not to sponsor scout troops to settle one issue raised in a five-year-old lawsuit brought by the ACLU’s Illinois chapter.

“If our Constitution’s promise of religious liberty is to be a reality, the government should not be administering religious oaths or discriminating based upon religious beliefs,” Adam Schwartz of the ACLU of Illinois said in a statement. “This agreement removes the Pentagon from direct sponsorship of Scout troops that engage in religious discrimination.”

But Thomas P. Cadmus, national commander of the American Legion, said in response: “The idea that sponsorship of Scouting by American military units is ‘unconstitutional’ goes beyond the absurd, even well past the point of stupidity.”

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