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Texas Youth Camp Safety & Health Act

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My troop was planning to do our own summer camp this year in conjunction with the other LDS troops in our church district.


A question to the Council regarding OA tap outs came back with a missive about the LDS church discouraging units from doing their own camps. The Chief Executive is LDS and does a good job bridging the gap between regular Scouts and LDS units, but when we got a copy of the e-mail we were a bit torqued off and inclined to ignore it and continue with our plans.


Then we get a letter from our church legal affairs unit regarding the above act. The short version being that any group that has an activity lasting 4 consecutive days (a day is 4 hours or more), including travel, involving 5+ youth, must file an application with the state, including a $750 fee and requiring training and backgrounds checks for all leaders. Failure to comply would result in $1000 fines. We thought that perhaps our Scout Executive had access to this letter, so we refocused our energy on our response to this legal issue.


I looked up the act online to see what the fuss was about and found out it has been on the books since 1989!




My wife's initial reaction was that it would go away as soon as the Baptists fussed about it restricting their Vacation Bible Schools. It sounded logical to me until I looked up the act and saw that it's been around for almost 20 years.


Has anyone else heard of this? Has this impacted your operations any? Or is this another classic Texas Legislature sneak attack to get money?


I'm all for safety, especially since LDS units as a whole have a bad track record we're trying to overcome. But this seems a bit silly, and the cynic in me thinks this was pushed by the professional camp people including *gasp* possibly our own Scout executives.

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Yah, I've seen other Texas youth statutes that are also problematic for scouters, eh? One would think that since National is in Irving they'd at least make some effort to lobby to prevent overbroad definitions in statutes affecting scouting in da state. This is one of those cases where anybody who has the time to look this stuff up and tell you about it should be takin' the time to meet with the relevant department or legislators to fix the thing.


As I read da statute, though, it applies only to a facility or property, eh? The statute is clearly intended for things like BSA or YMCA camp. Though da statute's definitions are overbroad (they would seem to apply even to a family with 6 kids who rented a cabin for a week), I can't believe this would be applied to a unit activity. Da licenses under the statute are for a whole year of operation, eh? I suppose with an overzealous agency they might squalk if you were usin', for example, LDS church grounds for the week with 100 kids from different units. Or if yeh rented a whole camp? Hard to say without lookin' up the regulations and talking to someone in the department that can speak to how they interpret this thing, eh? I doubt there's much case law on it.


So if it were me for a single unit activity, I'd ignore the statute as bein' inapplicable. I'm not operating a facility for campers, I'm takin' kids camping. But I'm a bit of a curmudgeon about government intrusion and I'm capable of defendin' myself, eh? Plus given a fine of $5 to $1000 vs. a registration fee of $750 and costs of compliance that are much higher, seems like da fine is the way to go :). First offense for a scout unit is bound to be much closer to $5 than $1000.


If yeh want to be more formal and do your SE's job for him, call da office of the Attorney General of Texas, eh? Or meet with your local legislator and as them to call. Ask for the AG's opinion on whether the statute applies to a one-shot unit activity (or a family with 6 kids!).


Of course, da easiest way to avoid the statute is to take your unit to a different state! Let New Mexico have the benefit of your tourist dollars if your own state doesn't want 'em.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Thanks Beavah.


We've decided that we'll follow the law as best we can. We considered going to New Mexico, especially as some of our leaders have private property out that way, but in the end it was decided we would be setting a poor example for the youth (Scouts and our young women) by avoiding the law like that, at least until we've made an effort to comply and/or correct the situation. I'll certainly take up the issue with out legislators. Civic responsibility and all. Perhaps I can nudge some of my scouts to use this for their Citizenship MBs and they can learn something as well.

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My lay reading of the statute also keys in on facility or property.


It would appear that one could go camping with the Troop and cojoin with other Troops but that this statute would interfere with a facility or property that advertised to a Troop or Troops to do provide the physical and logistical services of a non-primitive camping experience.


I can't see this being applied to what diogenes is proposing but can see it being directly applied to a regular council type camp. IMHO, YMMV. Not to be taken as legal advice.

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  • 3 weeks later...

"We considered going to New Mexico, especially as some of our leaders have private property out that way, but in the end it was decided we would be setting a poor example for the youth (Scouts and our young women) by avoiding the law like that, at least until we've made an effort to comply and/or correct the situation."


I would encourage you to reconsider -- not about camping, but about what constitutes a poor example of citizenship.


The simple fact is, even good well-written laws tend to assume a simpler world then the one that actually exists. And, most laws aren't that good, much less well-written. Anyone in business has had to choose to ignore laws. Anyone paying complex taxes has to guess at what the law is -- even IRS counselors don't know. Some business people have even been in situations where the ONLY choice was WHICH laws were to be violated, not WHETHER, because the laws were contradictory.


Your Scouts are going to have to live in a country with many bad, or unenforceable, or selectively enforced or even concealed laws. Help them to learn to do that ethically, and to understand that legality only partially overlaps morality. Sometimes, what's legal is wrong. Sometimes what's right is illegal. That's the truth, and one too few adults grasp.


I realize that, for adults who are "rule followers" this truth bends their minds till they hurt, but truth is truth, like it or not. Legally avoiding application of the law to yourselves is a freedom we sometimes have in this country, and there's nothing intrinsically wrong with doing so.





BTW, if you want some incentives to think hard about this, here are two:


=> If you EVER buy anything mail order or over the Internet, you are legally OBLIGATED to file a personal State Use Tax return on those purchases. (And, once you file, if Texas is like GA or TN, you'll get automatic audits and assessments in any month or quarter in which you do NOT file, or in which you file a $0.00 return.)


=> If you -- or a troop or church group -- washes a car or some cars, and the water runs off your property, you are in violation of the Federal Clean Water Act of 1972, and subject to fines up to $10,000 for a first violation. This is true in all 50 states. These laws are mostly not enforced this way, but if I take pictures, and take them to the Texas state's EPA affiliate, they WILL cite you.


If you've done either of these things -- failed to file, or washed with run-off -- you are an unconvicted (presumably) criminal. No if's, and's or but's -- you ARE! Ignorance is NOT a legal excuse.

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Hope the young man with the videocon BOR is doing well :)


OK, first issue, since you are LDS, is Sabbath. Many, but not all, Scout camps operate SunPM-SatAM as a camp cycle. If that's what you're trying to avoid, there are Scout Camps which are working with LDS units ... sad thing is, I'm not sure they're in close proximity to Oil Patch and Beyond, Texas...


Look at the Council Camps around you. Decide what's worth the trip and what isn't. Get input and recommendations, and then give your youth some decisionmaking responsibility ... do one of the Council Camps sound like a winner, or would a better idea be going over to NM and doing it yourself?


BTW, I do not see any ethical issues with a camping event out-of-state, even a private one, even with Texas' law. I think it's a response to the Primitives cases earlier in the year, but I think you're square-up people trying to do the right thing.


To me, the two biggest issues of establishing an internal camp are:

- Pool/lakefront and compliance with SSD/SA.

- Ranges and compliance with shooting sports safety (having established military field ranges, compliance is not difficult, but it is precise).

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Our Eagle candidate has hit the snag of a dead home computer trapping the draft of his packet. He was delaying the process a bit for family reasons which have come to pass, but is now kinda stuck. With the Inauguration Day looming, he might get motivated to be creative and/or hard working in getting his packet finished.


Back on the main subject, yes, the Sabbath is a key issue. The local council camps have a provision to allow you to check in Monday AM instead of Sunday PM, but you have to have been at the camp at least once in the previous 2 years. Another issue is program. We'd like to integrate more of our religious aspects into the camp program that we simply couldn't do at a council camp.


For this year, we're going to a different camp in council. It is a split program between two camps, on half at Hughes Aquatic Base and the rest at the COPES course nearby. We'll work out the Sabbath details as we get closer. We're doing this because the decision to stay in Texas and comply with the law has been made for us by our church district level leadership. We're staying in council due to logistics: cost, distance, and availability of leaders. The boys also weighed in and they sound excited about this option, especially considering last year's which can be described politely as a "learning experience".


I think we'll push for doing our own camp next year, either in Texas or New Mexico. I'm keeping notes on the input I'm receiving here and from other sources, and will combine it with our experiences at HAB/COPES this summer to report on recommendations for next year. I'll also watch to see what happens with our Young Womens' camp, as they are more affected by this than we are on the Scout/Young Men side as we have the council camps to fall back on, while our YW program is purely internal. I'll watch to see how well we can meet our religious programming needs at council camp this summer, and if the Scouting side is better than what we had last year (we had boys not show up to camp but get reported as completing merit badges, and the boys that were there reported that they didn't do some of the requirements but were told by the instructors that they were "waived").


Sorry, I think I rambled a bit there, but it lead back to our original reason for wantng to do our own camp: council camp didn't meet our needs, which in all fairness we can't expect a council camp to do in some aspects. We're capable of doing our own internally next year while still complying with G2SS, SSD, and range control. We could have done it this year except the leader spearheading the plan got assigned out of area for 8 months by the Border Patrol which cut his involvement level down to Committee Meetings.


On the legal side, the Texas AG at the moment is a mess, as is painfully obvious with what they've done to the government agency where I work and other state agencies. He either flips a coin or licks his finger to test the political winds before he gives an answer that vaguely relates to the legal question asked in the first place.


Anyway, thanks for all the advice, everyone, it really does help me and the rest of my troop leaders make our case towards a more reasonable response to the law that allows us to do our programs the way we need them to be done.

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Have you tried working with your council to see if they can make accomodations for the LDS sabbath obligations? We have a lot of LDS units in our council (and the Marriott family/corporation are major donors). One of our counsel camps has set up Monday morning check-in for LDS units. Camp Olmsted (http://www.boyscouts-ncac.org/openrosters/ViewOrgPageLink.asp?LinkKey=15977&orgkey=1933) at Goshen Scout Reservation is a dining hall camp that runs Sunday-Saturday. As program doesn't start until after lunch on Monday the LDS units can get the entire experience. I'm not LDS and our unit camps at a different (patrol cooking) camp at the reservation so I cannot personally attest as to what Monday morning ends up being like but the LDS scouts/scouters I have talked to didn't seem to have any complaints. I should note that the reservation is about a 4 hour drive from the council so those scouts must be leaving for camp at OH-DARK-THIRTY Monday morning.


I don't know how your council camps are set up but since there are a number of LDS troops that are looking to go elsewhere I would think the council camping committee would be eager to work with you.


Good luck.




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diogenes is out in the Oil Patch of Texas. His council is likely very big in size and relatively small in its unit census (both units and people). I wouldn't be surprised to find 20 LDS troops in the entire Council to be on the high side.




The most effective way to get at this problem is to get a senior LDS person on the Council Exec Board, which I think you have. He then needs to stare the Reservation Director and the Camping Committee chair in the eyes and say: Support us, dagnabit. If there is enough LDS population to support an LDS specific session, maybe that's a ticket. I know Kansas City has a far greater population density for LDS than your neck of the woods, but we've pretty much dedicated one session at one of our Scout Camps to LDS. Units arrive Monday, early and leave Saturday late (like after campfire). It's busy, but they get it done.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Our Scout Executive is LDS, and we have some LDS members on the committee. We even have an LDS ranger at BTSR now.


Buffalo Trail Council is large georgraphically. Rough guess is that we have maybe a dozen LDS Boy Scout units in the whole council. Maybe half a dozen Varisty/Venturing.


I don't know how much further we'll get on accommodations for LDS units regarding check-in times. We're perfectly willing to leave our start points at oh-dark thirty (I've done it other councils that were far less spread out), but I think the issue is more of having district and council leadership on site to help process the check-ins.


The more we discuss the issue in committee meetings, the more it sounds like a combination of money/loyalty concerns on the scout side and overly cautious legal interpretation on the church side. I figure the best we can do now is ride it out, observe the results, the take the issue back to our church leadership and revisit the issue.


For example, I know our Young Women have changed their week-long camp from the summer to a 3 day event during Spring Break. I don't know how their going to do their full program in just 3 days. The year I helped out, there barely managed to do it all in 4 & 1/2 days (they last 1/2 day due to travel distances).


I also know the church leadership is concerned about our young men not getting enough of the spiritual side of things (the main reason we wanted to do our own camp this year).


I'm still working within my church leadership to help look at this in a less drastic (strictly legal) light. We can probably use the outcome of the YW camp to help because the YW don't have the "let's just use a council camp and get it over with" option that the boys do, and their annual week of camp is an integral part of their program.


Maybe I'll get more help on the council. I just had a long chat with our new DE who is trying to revitalize our district and start doing things like district committee, etc. She's not a local, so she's not beholden to local politics and attitudes.

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As far as matters of faith go, that can begin right in the campsite, at first call. Roust em out, get em around in a circle, spend some moments in prayer, a SM minute on faith... and let 'em run.


That can work for any unit which walks the walk on its faith :).

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  • 6 months later...

Just wanted to report back in. A job transfer to northern Texas has taken me from active participation with the troop but I've stayed in touch.


They are at Scout camp this week in New Mexico. They were signed up for camp at the local council aquatics base and COPES course, but they were told about 2 months ago that the camp was cancelled. They quickly put together a plan at the new location for cheaper, plus they are getting to do as we originally planned.

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I missed this thread back in Nov.


I'm glad, diogenes, that your scouts will be able to have a summer camp experience this year.


That Texas Law you quoted helps explain something I wondered about 15 years back when I was in graduate school in Lubbock, TX (South Plains Council). One of the units in the city held its own summer camp on a ranch that belonged to a relative of one of the leaders out in Oklahoma every summer. The troop in question was the largest in the council at the time and ranked #6 nationally with over 120 registered/active youth. The excuse I heard from that unit at the time for holding their own camp in OK was not wanting to overwhelm the local scout camp. Now, I wonder if it was actually partially to work around that law.


As for LDS, our council works well with their LDS units. In past years (I don't know about this summer), they have held an LDS week at their camp centered around the needs of LDS units. Other units are welcome to attend that week.


My large area-wise, rural district has 80 active units, with roughly 8 of those LDS units.

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Our council supported an all LDS campout week at BTSR last year. It was huge as we had church leaders coming in from Salt Lake to do training. They are usually supportive of LDs units.


I can only guess if this law affected the unit in Lubbock. This law was on the books when I was a youth herer in Texas and we did our own summer camp just fine. My dad was one of the leaders and he never said anything about having to deal with this. Maybe it was because we did the campout on a training range of Fort Hood (which was also an established BSA/GSA campsite).

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