Skip to comments.Boy scouts cutting public ties, Fear lawsuits over 'God' in oath
Posted on 01/21/2006 1:03:05 PM PST by Coleus
The fear of lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union has driven 216 Boy Scout, Cub Scout and related troops across the state - including 35 in North Jersey - to sever their charters with public institutions.
Many of them, including Troop 124 in Northvale, have enjoyed a long friendship with municipalities that have sponsored the Scouts, provided them with funding and offered a comfortable meeting space. But an ACLU threat has sent troops scrambling for new sponsors.
The Boy Scouts of America issued a directive last April for all troops to transfer their sponsorship by the end of the year from public organizations to private entities, such as religious groups, fraternal organizations or parent-teacher clubs. The intent was to protect taxpayer-funded institutions from litigation.
The ACLU has argued that government sponsorship - which includes funding - of the Boy Scout troops violates the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom because the Scouts swear an oath that includes affirming duty to God.
"In order to participate in Boy Scout activities, you have to swear an allegiance to God. You can't have a directly government-sponsored activity which says you have to swear to faith in God," said Ed Yohnka, an ACLU spokesman.
To be in compliance, the Northvale troop will reluctantly dissolve its ties with the borough in the next few weeks and rewrite a charter with St. Anthony Church on Walnut Street in Northvale. The local troop had held meetings in the basement of the public library for the past six years. Now all that may change.
Trip McMillan of the Northern New Jersey Boy Scout Council said local troops have handled the change with few problems. "We've easily been able to find community organizations willing to support us," he said.
Scouts may continue meeting at schools or borough halls because of the Support Our Scouts Act that clarifies federal law so no local, state or federal agency can deny Scouts access to public government property, Yohnka said. "The Boy Scouts have the right to use the borough hall for meeting space if everyone has equal access to the facility," he said.
This is not the first time the ACLU has gone after the Boy Scouts. The ACLU has questioned the Scouts' exclusion of girls and avowed homosexuals and atheists from its membership. A Supreme Court decision in 2000 affirmed the organization's right to establish its own standards for membership and leadership that would include belief in God and heterosexuality.
In this case, rather than strike God from their oath or put public entities at risk for expensive lawsuits, the Boy Scouts have yielded to ACLU demands. "This could sap thousands of dollars from schools that are already financially strapped to provide education to children," said Greg Shields, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America. "Obviously, we wouldn't want that to happen. We want to protect our partners so we are moving them to other, private organizations."
Threat angers leaders
Jose Gomez, scoutmaster of Troop 171 in Teaneck, was infuriated when he discovered this month that he would have to change sponsorship from the Whittier School to the PTA. "It's ridiculous," said Gomez. "There are many more important issues and they are wasting time worrying about this. This is a group that helps kids behave better and do their homework and listen more to their parents. That's what people should focus on, instead of about where we are having meetings."
Even Scout leaders of troops that did not have to make any changes were angered at the ACLU for picking on the Boy Scouts once again. "The ACLU is dead wrong," said Ed Lindey, assistant scoutmaster in Upper Saddle River. "The Boy Scouts is one of the most wholesome institutions in the world. We teach our boys to be kind and respectful of other people."
As for boys who do not believe in God, said Lindey, whose group meets in a church, they have the choice to join or stay away. But moving some troops to houses of worship could cause concern among families whose religion differs from the sponsor.
Norman Kasser, a scoutmaster in Hoboken, said the parents of Scouts in his three troops - two mixed-religion units that meet in churches and one that meets in a synagogue - don't mind that the meetings are in houses of worship. But he did admit that the rabbi and some members of the synagogue were initially uncomfortable sponsoring an organization that appears to discriminate.
Rabbi Robert Scheinberg of the United Synagogue of Hoboken, where the troops meet, objects to the Scouts' anti-gay policies. However, the synagogue agreed to the sponsorship "because of all the good that the Boy Scouts manage to do and, second, because I know that our scoutmaster also strongly objects to the Scouts' anti-gay policy."
Others join the fight
The ACLU is not alone in this issue. California-based Scouting for All, a national non-profit educational and advocacy organization, reaches out to gay youth and is trying to get the Boy Scouts to rescind its policy against gays and atheists.
"Any organization that discriminates against any American should not be allowed to use public facilities. They should not be given taxpayer funded monies," said Scott Cozza, Scouting for All's president.
Boy Scout officials say the transition over the past year has shifted sponsorship of the vast majority of troops to private groups rather than public entities such as boroughs, fire departments, police departments and public housing complexes.
Yohnka, the ACLU spokesman, said the movement came after the Pentagon agreed in November 2004 to halt sponsorship of Scouting groups by military facilities after the ACLU filed a lawsuit. In April 2005, the ACLU of Illinois threatened litigation against other public institutions sponsoring Boy Scout programs.
"Government is supposed to be neutral with regards to religion," he said. But some Northvale officials are enraged by the ACLU's threat. They complain that the rights advocacy group is "picking on" an organization that influences young men to become better students and law-abiding citizens.
"We should be able to encourage good values in our kids. This left-wing agenda is taking God out of the country," said Northvale Mayor John Rooney, who added that he wanted to fight the issue in court but fears it would be costly to taxpayers. The nearly 70-year-old troop in Northvale has been sponsored in the past by the Redman Club, which is a fraternal organization, and by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, but the troop outgrew those quarters.
The troop, which is 30 members strong and growing, has been sponsored by the town for the past six years. Northvale has given the troop funds, as well as space in the library basement for its bimonthly meetings and activities. The new sponsor, St. Anthony Church, lacks space to handle the troop, so leaders hope to obtain permission to continue meeting in the library.
The Northvale troop didn't have any trouble finding a new sponsor, but hard feelings remain. "The town loves us," said Joe Kraus, a seven-year assistant scoutmaster. "It's sad that we have to sever that union."
If I ever win the Lottery, I will buy a LARGE ranch, and I will open it up to any and all Boy/Girl Scouts that wish to gather there.
Thanks for the suggestion.
The ACLU is making me nuts,absolutely nuts !
You will be surprised at who some of the "Fellow Travelers" are. Have fun.
Best wishes on a smooth path!
Oh sorry. He's just making Star, but we take these advances with much excitement all the same.
That's where my son says he wants it! :-)
Thanks for correcting in my absence.
This legal terrorism by the ACLU against the BSA is as good as ANY reason for modern day civil warfare as I've ever seen. Just like the Confederates at Ft Sumter, NC. We need to fire a few cannon rounds and lay siege to the ACLU headquarters.
FReepmail me and little jeremiah if you want on/off the ping list.
Good luck to your son. Tenacity pays dividends.
Maybe the Amish had it right all these years! I can't say I would want to go without modern conveniences, but the rest I could nicely do without!
You're absolutly right. Charleston SOUTH Carolina. I've been there and took the tour and stood on that sacred ground myself. Also looked around on the USS Yorktown and seen the Apollo capsule and the whole bit.
Charlston is one of my favorite southern cities.
Good picture. The ACLU is a thoroughly evil organization. It is a serious enemy of all that makes our country great. We were talking tonight about the degradation that has happened in the last few years - 20 years ago no one would believe what is happening now, and the destruction of morality and traditional values is speeding up.
The ACLU has to be taken apart, defunded, and (my dream), indicted, arrested, taken to court, found guilty of a whole buncha bad stuff, and jailed.
My older son just turned 15 last week and is about to make Star, as I posted. He has already completed part of the SM conference for Star but it turned out he needed one more week as a patrol leader, so they're planning to finish it up next week.
We're just hoping the fumes don't get him... I know a lot of Scouts lose interest as they get older. I hear that Star is where a lot of them lose motivation or drop out.
I think merit badges are what keeps this one of mine going. He loves them and always has a few in-process.
Also we are fortunate to be a terrific troop with great leadership and lots of parental involvement.
Let me know how your nephew does..you were amazing to reach Eagle at 15. Did you get Palms after that? My son wants to get 3 Palms - we're assuming it's ok to get the merit badges now..
I find a lot of MBCs just talking to people at work. There are an amazing number of Eagle Scouts out there whose kids have just grown up and left home. They're often ready to jump back in and give some time and support.
In fact as of last Thurdsday I have 15 and solid leads on at least 5 more. That will leave me with 12 more to recruit after that.
I've picked up a member of the Camping Committee, and 3 MBCs that same way but at the Joint Service Clubs monthly meeting. Working on someone about to retire from the news business to take on Journalism, Public Speaking, and be the District Publicity Chair. When you're part of the Key-3 you end up doing lots of things.
That reminds me, got to call the local cable tv provider on Monday to see if I can convince them as a tribute to Scout Week to Run Walt Disney's "Follow Me Boys" starring Fred MacMurry, on the weekend that starts it and the weekend that ends it. Say! Why don't you do the same in your area?
Good job on your recruiting! You're making a lot of progress already.
Our sick friend's wife is Key 3, btw, and also one of the Vice Chairs. Got an email from her yesterday and it sounds like he is doing much better now.
Key 3 is a lot of work, I know. Hope you have a great DE to work with. That seems to make a huge difference. I try to take ours to lunch every few months as a thank you. I know he works at least 60 hour weeks routinely. And I have to collect mbc paperwork from him anyway....
Public Speaking is one that I hoped both of my boys would consider. I think it's a terrific badge. I keep lining it up for a fair and then it ends up turning into Communications, because mbcs for one are also usually for the other. And Scouts wanting Communications are endless! I keep wondering where they all come from...
My boys just came home (exhausted) from winter camp, one with Forestry and the other with Mammal Study.