DoD Support for Boy Scouts to Continue, Rumsfeld Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2004 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the Defense Department has a "longstanding, excellent relationship" with the Boy Scouts that's mutually beneficial and should continue.
Rumsfeld, a former Eagle Scout and Distinguished Eagle Scout himself, said Dec. 3 during an interview on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" that he'll work to make sure that relationship doesn't come to an end.
"This is a good relationship. It ought to continue, and as long as I am here, I'll do everything to see that it does," he said.
At issue is an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging DoD's support of the Boy Scouts. The ACLU suit centers on the Scout oath, which acknowledges God. The group said the oath violates Scouts' religious liberty and that government sponsorship of the program is tantamount to religious discrimination.
DoD, however, has a departmentwide policy that prohibits official sponsorship of any nonfederal organization, including the Boy Scouts. Officials said the department entered into a limited partial settlement that reiterates this policy.
Army Lt. Col. Joe Richard, a DoD spokesman, said the partial settlement 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."
Legislation in both the Senate and House of Representatives aims to protect DoD and other federal agencies that sponsor the Scouts.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, also a former Scout, introduced legislation last month stipulating that no federal law should limit any federal agency from supporting the Boy or Girl Scouts, including meetings held on federal property.
Another resolution in the House would allow DoD "to continue to exercise its statutory authority to support the activities of the Boy Scouts of America, in particular the periodic national and world Boy Scout Jamborees."
Rumsfeld wrote Frist in late November to support a proposed concurrent resolution. "The Department of Defense takes great pride in its longstanding and rich tradition of support to the Boy Scouts of America," the secretary wrote.