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Brass to D-M: Stop sponsoring Boy Scout troop

November 17, 2004

Air Force base forced to give up sponsorship because a Pentagon-ACLU legal settlement bars military from supporting Boy Scouts.

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The only local Boy Scout troop sponsored by the military is looking for another backer after a settlement between the Department of Defense and the American Civil Liberties Union barred military support of the Boy
Scouts of America.

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base has sponsored Troop 784 for about 35 years, said Joseph Daniszewski, executive director of the Catalina Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

But that affiliation will end because the Pentagon agreed to warn military bases worldwide not to sponsor Boy Scout troops.

"The Boy Scouts of American has been working with that troop, helping them to find an alternative chartering organization," Daniszewski said. "We've been looking at the VFW or American Legion as alternatives. Our experience is that in situations like this, we are able to find other chartering groups."

Troop 784 has 10 members, he said.

Chartering groups essentially have ownership of troops, selecting troop leaders, providing meeting places and "ensuring that the young people have a great program," Daniszewski said.

"This settlement will have no impact on our (Scouts). We are going to find them a new chartering group and it will be seamless," he said.

The agreement stems from a series of legal challenges in recent years over how closely the government should be aligned with the Boy Scouts because of the organization's policies to ban openly gay Scout leaders and compel members to swear an oath of duty to God.

The ACLU believes 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 rule does not prevent service members from leading Scout troops on their own time, and Scouts will still be able to hold meetings on military bases.

Scott Pignatella, scoutmaster for Troop 218, is troubled by the settlement.

"I'm getting really frustrated with how many resources the Boy Scouts are losing because of legal challenges from the ACLU," said Pignatella, whose troop is sponsored by the Picture Rocks Community Center. "I feel they're reading the amendment wrong. It's freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."

Pignatella is worried that other assistance the Scouts get from the military also will be lost.

"The National Guard used their equipment to help move the Boy Scout camp in the Catalinas to the desert floor when there was fire up there," he said. "With this sort of strict regulation, all that sort of stuff could go away."

D-M officials are awaiting further details to decide what their involvement with the Scouts can be, said Maj. Laurel Tingley, an Air Force spokeswoman.

"Our intention is to support the Scouts in anyway we can," she said. Daniszewski said the Boy Scouts also look forward to working with the military in any way allowed.

"We certainly respect the settlement between the DOD and the ACLU and we respect that the DOD has followed through on this," he said. "We have always been strong supporters of the military, and we always will be."

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