Pentagon to Cut Off Boy Scouts From Bases
By MIKE ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO - The Pentagon has agreed to warn military bases worldwide not to directly sponsor Boy Scout troops,
partially resolving claims that the government has engaged in religious discrimination by supporting a group that
requires members to believe in God.
The settlement announced Monday is part of a series of legal challenges in recent years over how closely the government
should be aligned with the Boy Scouts of America, a venerable organization that boasts a membership of more than
3.2 million members.
Civil liberties advocates have set their sights on the organization's policies because the group bans openly
gay scout leaders and compels members to swear an oath of duty to God. The ACLU believes that direct government
sponsorship of such a program amounts to discrimination. "If our Constitution's promise of religious liberty
is to be a reality, the government should not be administering religious oaths or discriminating based on religious
beliefs," said ACLU attorney Adam Schwartz.
The Pentagon said it has long had a rule against sponsorship of non-federal organizations and denied the rule
had been violated. But it agreed to send a message to posts worldwide warning them not to sponsor Boy Scout troops
or other such groups. The rule does not prevent service members from leading Scout troops unofficially on their
own time, and Scouts will still be able to hold meetings on areas of military bases where civilian organizations
are allowed to hold events.
The settlement does not resolve other ACLU claims involving government spending that benefits the Boy Scouts,
such as money used to prepare a Virginia military base for the Boy Scout Jamboree and grants used by state and
local governments to benefit the Boy Scouts, Schwartz said. He said the Pentagon spends $2 million every year to
prepare the Virginia base for the jamboree, held once every four years. He said the Defense Department also makes
annual allocations of $100,000 to support Boy Scout units on military bases overseas and $100,000 to improve Boy
Scout properties, such as summer camps.
Attorney Marcia Berman, who represented the Defense Department, declined to comment on the settlement Monday.
But Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said the message that will be sent to bases represents "a
clarification of an existing rule that DOD personnel cannot be involved in an official capacity." The original
ACLU lawsuit named as defendants the Department of Defense, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and
the Chicago Board of Education. The schools settled, agreeing not to engage in official sponsorship of scouting