- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 31, 2000

A division of the Department of Interior is gathering information on its ties to the Boy Scouts to determine whether such ties violate President Clinton's executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the Scouts were within their constitutional rights in barring homosexuals from serving as Scout leaders.
The gathering of information is the first known instance of the federal government questioning ties with the Boy Scouts since that ruling.
The Bureau of Reclamation "will assist [the Department of Justice] by providing information as it relates to the Boy Scouts of America to ensure consistency with the Executive Order" President Clinton signed on June 23, Nattie Silva, assistant director of diversity and equal opportunity for the bureau, said in an e-mail memo sent out Tuesday.
The memo, sent to the bureau's commissioner and its regional directors, asked that the agency officials provide answers to seven questions regarding all the "activities, events or programs" they have in conjunction with the Boy Scouts by the end of business tomorrow.
Miss Silva said she needs the responses by that time "so that we may respond to the [Justice] Department by September 5."
Reaction from the friends of the Boy Scouts was swift. "This appears to be a precursor to a full-throated attack on the Scouts by the Clinton administration… . We're looking for Congress to rein in this mean-spirited foray against America's premier youth organization," Robert H. Knight, senior director of cultural studies for the Family Research Council, said of the Silva memo.
In her memo, Miss Silva specifically requested information concerning "any such programs related to the Boy Scout Jamboree to be held in July 2001." The jamboree will be held at Fort A.P. Hill, an Army post at Bowling Green, Va. The event is held every four years in recent years, always at Fort A.P. Hill.
Gregg Shields, spokesman for the Boy Scouts, said he did not know of the federal inquiry involving his organization until told of it yesterday by a reporter. He learned later that Boy Scouts corporate officials were aware of it. "They are not concerned about it," Mr. Shields said.
Justice officials said yesterday the Reclamation Bureau came to them and asked for assistance in determining whether any of the joint activities they conduct with the Boy Scouts violate Executive Order 13160.
The order prohibits discrimination on the basis of "race, sex, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, sexual orientation and status as a parent in federally conducted education and training programs."
Mr. Clinton signed the order five days before the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, ruled that the Boy Scouts has a constitutional right to exclude homosexual members and leaders. The court held that the Boy Scouts a private organization founded in 1913 believes accepting homosexuals "would derogate from the organization's expressive message."
Mr. Clinton, as president, is the honorary head of the Boy Scouts of America. Several Democrats in Congress have asked Mr. Clinton to resign from that position as a protest of the Scouts' ban homosexual troop leaders.
In her memo, Miss Silva of the Reclamation Bureau asks officials of her agency to:
Identify and explain all activities it has with the Boy Scouts, including, but not limited to, the Boy Scout Jamboree.
Specify whether each activity is provided only to members of the Boy Scouts or whether it also is provided to the general public.
Identify any specific monetary assistance provided directly to the Boy Scouts.
Identify any non-monetary assistance provided directly to the Boy Scouts. Non-monetary assistance could include use of government equipment, facilities and employees.
State whether the bureau treats the Boy Scouts as a recipient of federal financial assistance and makes the organization sign assurances.
Specify whether the bureau sponsors Boy Scouts of America troops and, if so, what the sponsorship entails.
Identify all awards, certificates, patches or other forms of recognition that the bureau provides to members of the Boy Scouts for participation in these programs.
Last week, homosexual rights groups kicked off a national campaign against the Boy Scouts to force the private organization to rescind its policy barring homosexuals from acting as troop leaders.
The groups want to use laws enacted by state and local governments that ban discrimination against homosexuals to limit Boy Scout troops' access to public funding and use of public facilities.
Homosexual rights groups held rallies against the Boy Scouts in 36 cities and 21 states as part of the nationwide protest. A small group of activists some dressed in Boy Scout uniforms was turned away from the organization's national headquarters in Irving, Texas, after presenting a 55,000-signature petition protesting the policy.
Mr. Clinton's executive order calls for the Justice Department to determine what constitutes education and training programs and to offer guidance as to whether there is compliance with the mandate.
Justice officials said Interior's Reclamation Bureau was the first agency to ask if a specific organization complies with the new order. The department has not yet made a decision, as it is still preparing guidelines, one official said.
Mr. Shields of the Boy Scouts of America was unable to say how much federal financial aid the organization receives. "But it's minuscule, if any. There might be some money for lease payments or from HUD programs to send poor kids to camp," he said.
He said he questions whether the Boy Scouts actually are involved in any federal training and education programs. He said the federal government is not involved in the Scouts' two main educational programs, Learning for Life and a program for Explorer scouts that lets young people get up close to doctors, lawyers and other professionals.
As for the Boy Scout National Jamboree, Mr. Shields said that event is conducted in partnership with the U.S. military. He said about 35,000 youngsters participate, and the Army makes use of their presence to practice crowd control and "getting them from one station to another."
Mr. Shields said the Boy Scouts has "made major investments" in the Fort A.P. Hill property, including construction of a rappelling tower and the installation of showers.

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