- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 20, 2004

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Davis has joined the effort to reverse the Pentagon’s decision to end support for Boy Scout troops sponsored by military bases.

Mrs. Davis, Virginia Republican, has asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to reconsider the concession to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which she described in a statement as an “extreme group bent on pursuing a political agenda.”

“I believe the Department of Defense has every right to work with the Boy Scouts,” Mrs. Davis said, “and I believe this relationship is very important for both groups.”

An ACLU lawsuit has challenged the relationship, asserting that the Defense Department should not support an organization that discriminates based on religion because Scouts are required to believe in God. The ACLU won the concession last Monday, when the Defense Department agreed not to sponsor Scout troops on military bases.

Mrs. Davis, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, protested the decision and co-sponsored a House resolution in support of the relationship between the Scouts and the Pentagon.

The Defense Department settlement 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, which reports more than 3.2 million members.

Civil liberties advocates have set their sights on the organization’s policies because they ban openly homosexual Scout leaders and compel members to swear an oath of duty to God. The ACLU argues 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 lawyer Adam Schwartz.

The settlement does not resolve other ACLU complaints about government spending that benefits the Boy Scouts, including the money to prepare the Fort A.P. Hill Army base in Virginia for the Boy Scout Jamboree, Mr. Schwartz said.

The Washington Times reported Wednesday that the Jamboree, which draws more than 40,000 Scouts and leaders to the base, will go on as planned this summer, although future stagings likely will depend on the outcome of the continuing legal battle.

“There will be no effect on the Jamboree,” said Bob Bork, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America. “We don’t anticipate any problem with that.”

Mr. Schwartz said the Pentagon spends $2 million every year to prepare the Caroline County 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.

However, Pentagon spokes-man Lt. Col. Joe Richards said the partial settlement on Monday will have minimal effect on the military’s relationship with the Boy Scouts.

“The settlement does not prohibit the Department of Defense from supporting the Boy Scouts of America,” he said. “Boy Scout units are permitted to meet on military bases, and military personnel are allowed to remain active in Boy Scout programs.”

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