- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2004

A lawmaker and veterans are calling on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to reverse administration lawyers who agreed to warn military bases against officially sponsoring the Boy Scouts of America as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Critics of the settlement said that the Pentagon caved to the ACLU, which said the government improperly supported a group that requires belief in God, and that it was particularly offensive after the Nov. 2 elections, when the most pressing voter issue was the country’s values.

“The voters of this nation, if it’s a choice between expanding NAMBLA and preserving the scouting movement, the voters of America want to defend the scouting movement,” said Rep. J.D. Hayworth, Arizona Republican and an Eagle Scout, referring to the North American Man/Boy Love Association.

The ACLU defended NAMBLA in a wrongful-death suit brought by the parents of a 10-year-old Massachusetts boy slain by a member of the association.

In the Pentagon case, the Justice Department defends the partial settlement of a 1999 lawsuit as merely restating existing policy, which prohibits the military from sponsoring any outside groups.

But critics say the settlement encourages the ACLU to continue its drive to force the military to cut off all taxpayer support to the Scouts, which uses military bases for meetings and events. Part of the still-pending Illinois suit accuses the government of aiding the Boy Scouts through such means as preparing a Virginia military base for the Boy Scout Jamboree.

Mr. Hayworth has sent a letter to Mr. Rumsfeld, himself an Eagle Scout, calling on him to countermand his lawyers.

“Without a shot being fired, Department of Defense lawyers apparently abandoned the Boy Scouts, threw up their hands and surrendered to the ACLU’s latest radical attack on the cherished heritage and values of this nation,” Mr. Hayworth wrote.

The Boy Scouts, which requires members to believe in God and declare it in the group’s oath, aims to build values and character through a series of outdoor activities.

The ACLU lawsuit filed in Illinois argues that the federal government should not support the group’s exclusion of youths who want to become Scouts but do not believe in God. It also named as defendants the city of Chicago and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city of Chicago settled, agreeing not to engage in official sponsorship of Scout activities.

“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 lawyer Adam Schwartz after the Monday release of the settlement’s details.

Mr. Hayworth said the Pentagon’s warning to commanders will have a “chilling effect on the scouting movement on American military bases.”

His letter calls on Mr. Rumsfeld to instruct “Pentagonites” to “encourage the voluntary support and promotion of activities such as scouting that inspire an appreciation and commitment to the bedrock God-and-country values on which America thrives.”

Rumsfeld spokesman Larry Di Rita said the secretary did not know about the settlement before it was made.

The American Legion, the country’s largest veterans group, also weighed in. National Commander Thomas P. Cadmus, whose organization sponsors Scout troops nationwide, sent a letter to Mr. Rumsfeld demanding that he “stand up to the ACLU.”

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