Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor
From Fox News:
Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.
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SafeRides Program Stalls Due To Religion
"The public should not be required to sign a BSA Declaration of Religious Principle in a Public School program."
-Scott Cozza, President Scouting for All
From The Lewisboro Ledger
Jun 13, 2007
After 23 years
After 23 years, the future of John Jay High School's SafeRides program
is in doubt. Because a parent complained several months ago that
SafeRides members were required to sign a "declaration of religious
principles," Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Lichtenfeld has been
examining a new way to run the program without the school's financial
backing. Since 1984, it has been a joint project with the Boy Scouts
The matter came to the attention of the community because of a letter
from SafeRides co-advisers Dr. Linda Burke and James Brandt. The
letter, dated June 7 and e-mailed to high school students through
their school e-mail accounts, stated that "the superintendent has
decided that the SafeRides program, as it presently exists, must be
terminated." The letter also mentioned that the complaining par ent
"threatened to bring a lawsuit against our school district."
According to Dr. Lichtenfeld, Dr. Burke and Mr. Brandt were not
authorized to send out the letter, and had gotten these details
When called by The Ledger, Dr. Burke said she could not comment.
The program was already on its scheduled summer hiatus before the
letter was sent. It normally resumes with the start of school in the
Boy Scouts of America
The SafeRides program is owned by the Venturers, a coeducational
branch of the Boy Scouts of America, and chartered by the school
district. The Scouts provide secondary insurance for the program,
insuring the vehicles and the drivers in case of accidents. The
district provides the space for the group to meet and a dedicated
telephone line, and pays the stipends for the two teachers who act as
faculty advisers, who received $1,226.50 each this year.
Because the Scouts could provid e insurance only for members, all
SafeRides volunteers were required to join the Venturers. Included in
the application was the Boy Scouts of America's Declaration of
Religious Principle, which the organization requires all members to
sign. The declaration, without endorsing any specific religion,
states, in part, "The BSA maintains that no member can grow into the
best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God." For
the complete text of the declaration, see sidebar.
"Even though the activity is extracurricular, it is supported by
public funds," said Dr. Lichtenfeld. "It's a nondenominational
statement, but nevertheless they objected."
Dr. Lichtenfeld told The Ledger that he had tried to obtain a waiver
from the Scouts for the one student who objected, but that the Scouts
had refused, and so the district is now looking into finding a sponsor
organization to replace the district as the program's charterin g
"At worst, what's ending might be the district sponsorship, not the
program," said Dr. Lichtenfeld. He said that the district would
probably be looking for the new sponsor over the summer.
Should a new sponsor be found, it would pay for costs such as the
teacher stipends that had previously been borne by the district. But
the group would remain a club and would still be allowed to meet at
the school and use school facilities, said Dr. Lichtenfeld. According
to the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, part of the No Child
Left Behind Act of 2001, the school is legally required to allow
groups affiliated with the Scouts to meet in school facilities.
SafeRides, created at John Jay 23 years ago, is a program that offers
rides home to students on Friday nights. It was created to help cut
down on drunk driving and car accidents caused by inexperienced
"I participate in SafeRides because I know kids who've gotten home and
have had no memory of getting there," said John Jay senior Katie
Hamren, vice president of SafeRides. "Anyone in the world can tell you
that's a dangerous thing."
On any given Friday on which SafeRides is running, from 10 p.m. to 2
a.m., between four and eight students and an adult supervisor will
gather in the teacher's lounge at John Jay High School. Some students
monitor the phones, while others handle the driving.
"We don't just pick up drunk kids at parties, we pick up the
completely sober sophomore who's keeping a friend company while an
older sibling has a party, or the kid who got stuck at a train
station," said Katie. "It gives kids a safe ride home, it prevents
accidents and it prevents kids from being in a place where it's unsafe
for them to be."
The cars each contain two students, a male and a female. The driver
must have a senior driver's license, while the passenger must have at
least a junior license.
Between them, they've handled about two to three calls per night this
year, according to Katie.
"SafeRides doesn't do anything bad," Katie said. "It's purely a
community service organization."