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Support Our Scouts Act

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Article below ran in today's edition of The Tennessean.


Frist moves to protect Boy Scouts' access



Tennessean Washington Bureau



WASHINGTON Congress may come to the Boy Scouts' aid.


A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, introduced legislation yesterday that would guarantee the Boy Scouts of America can use government facilities for gatherings and events, despite recent lawsuits challenging the Scouts over their policies that exclude openly gay leaders and members who won't swear to a belief in God.


The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Scouts can set their own membership rules, but the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have sought to keep the Scouts from using government facilities, saying government shouldn't support an organization that critics believe discriminates.






The Pentagon last year settled one such lawsuit by telling U.S. military bases around the world not to become direct sponsors of Boy Scout troops or Cub Scout dens.


If the proposed ''Support Our Scouts Act'' becomes law, though, the federal government would be obliged to support the Scouts as fervently in the future as it has for 95 years, and state and local governments would be required to give Scouts access to their facilities if they make them available to other groups.


The lawsuits have ''had a chilling effect on the government in its support to the Scouts,'' said Senate Majority Leader Frist, a Nashville Republican who carried Boy Scout hats and a Scouting manual as he spoke about the legislation. ''(The legislation) addresses these issues head-on, by removing any doubt that federal agencies may welcome Scouts to hold meetings and go camping on federal property.''


In Tennessee, the proposed law would ensure that Scout troops based at Fort Campbell could continue to be sponsored by military organizations, said Joe Long, executive director of the Middle Tennessee Council of Boy Scouts of America.


''For us, it's very significant,'' Long said of the proposal.


More than 46,000 boys are Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts in the 37 counties covered by the Middle Tennessee Council, which is based in Nashville.


Nationally, more than 3.2 million boys ages 8-17 were Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts in 2003, the last year records were available.


The organization's leaders say they try to instill moral values and respect for community through group activities such as camping and earning merit badges in everything ranging from ''atomic energy'' to ''wilderness survival.''


''If you talk to a man my age who was a Cub Scout, and you ask him who his den mother was 30 or 40 years ago, by and large they know, they remember,'' said Gregg Shields, a Boy Scouts of America spokesman. ''You ask him who his fourth-grade teacher was and they go, 'I don't know.' ''


But critics say the organization's emphasis on religious beliefs and its exclusion of openly gay Scoutmasters mean it shouldn't get help from government to put on its programs. ACLU officials did not return a call for comment on the legislation, but the group's chapters are involved in lawsuits against the Boy Scouts from California to Connecticut.


Frist, a former Scout, tried to pass a similar bill last year, but he found little support at the end of a busy year in Congress. More than half the members of the Senate and slightly less than half of the House were Scouts, according to BSA statistics.


Other Senate co-sponsors include Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander, Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning, Montana Republican Conrad Burns, Idaho Republican Larry Craig, Nevada Republican John Ensign, Florida Democrat Bill Nelson and Oregon Republican Gordon Smith.


''It makes me think of Monday nights growing up in Maryville, Tennessee, as a boy, when I would go down to New Providence Presbyterian Church, join Troop 88,'' Alexander said at a news conference. ''Almost every weekend our volunteer leaders would take us out. We'd go to the national park, the military base. We'd go to the Oak Ridge laboratory.''




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First of all, this article (like many others about this subject) does not distinguish between government entities being CO's and "merely" allowing use of their facilities, which are two different issues. This is not the first article posted about this legislation. The first one gave the impression that it requires that if a governmental entity gave a certain "level" of support to the BSA at some point in the past, it cannot reduce that level of support. I have not read the actual legislation, but if the language in the article is any indication, it sounds like it COULD be interpreted to mean that a government entity that was a CO must remain a CO, because to do otherwise would be a "reduction in support." If that is how it is interpreted, I do not see how it could be constitutional, for reasons I have explained in other posts.


Second of all, if legislation is passed that is (arguably) unconstitutional, or is interpreted by the enforcing authority in a way that is (arguably) unconstitutional, I would expect someone to challenge it. That might be the ACLU or someone else, or both. The ACLU, as well as other groups, often file lawsuits to challenge the constitutionality of both federal and state legislation, or administrative interpretations of that legislation. It has not proven to be their "undoing" yet (Ed.) They do not, as far as I know, "sue Congress." They sue the administrative official who is obligated by the legislation to carry it out. In this case that probably is the Secretary of Defense as far as military bases, possibly the Secretary of Interior as far as use of non-military federal land, etc., and then whoever is responsible for making sure the states do what they are supposed to do. Suing these government officials is not a big deal, they get sued for something almost every day.

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Here is a petition that I received from a local scouter regarding this.



Because you have already signed our "Save the Scouts" petition

> and support the Boy Scouts of America, we wanted to alert you

> to key legislation that would prevent organizations like the

> ACLU from destroying this proud organization.


> + + Key legislation about to be announced!


> The "Support Our Scouts Act of 2005" is due to be announced

> any day, and would ensure that the Boy Scouts are treated fairly

> by guaranteeing their right to equal access to public facilities,

> forums and programs. It would also protect them from senseless

> attacks by groups like the ACLU.


> When this bill is introduced, Grassfire wants to be there with

> 500,000 petitions in a massive show of citizen support!


> Right now we have 385,000 petitions, and we are calling on

> friends like you to help push us past the goal as soon as possible.


> Here's how you can help...


> + + Action Item #1--ALERT YOUR FRIENDS


> Please forward this message to 20-30 of your friends and

> family--urging them to stand up for the Boy Scouts in by

> clicking here:


> http://www.grassfire.org/2/petition.asp?PID=97131'>http://www.grassfire.org/2/petition.asp?PID=97131'>http://www.grassfire.org/2/petition.asp?PID=97131


> Given the state of today's culture with the lack of father's in

> many homes, growing drug use and violence among our teenage

> boys, and numerous other pitfalls, the Boy Scouts may be more

> important than ever to the health of our society.


> But unless grassroots America stands up on behalf of this proud

> organization that has instilled honesty, integrity and character in

> more than 110 million boys over the years, we may soon lose

> their outstanding influence.


> Thanks for your outstanding effort on behalf of the Scouts!


> Grassfire.org Alliance


> P.S. Remember, when this legislation is introduced, Grassfire

> wants to be there with your petition and those of your friends

> and family!


> Strike a blow for the Scouts by forwarding this message to 20-30

> of your friends and family today!


> + + Sign our "Save the Scouts" petition:


> http://www.grassfire.org/2/petition.asp?PID=97131


> + + For more on this and other key issues Grassfire is battling:


> http://www.grassfire.org


> + + Show your support with our patriotic magnets:


> http://www.grassfire.org/9026/offer.asp?rid=97131


> + + Comments? Questions?


> http://www.grassfire.org/email.asp?ind=10


> + + + + +

> Grassfire.org Alliance is a non-profit 501©4 issues advocacy

> organization

> dedicated to equipping our 1.5 million-strong network of grassroots

> conservatives with the tools that give you a real impact on the key

> issues of our day. Gifts to Grassfire.org are not tax deductible.


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First of all, we should probably recognize that politicians like Frist will support anything that will get them a few votes. That's not just because of his party affiliation. One of the 1st things I learned in PoliSci class was that the job of every elected official is, first and foremost, to get re-elected. Frist sees an issue that will be popular with his constituency, and that's the extent of it.


Second, we should be careful about groups like Grassfire. Grassfire is a conservative Christian organization; taking their support endangers the non-denominational character of Scouting. And I can tell you from my visits to the Grassfire site, that if BSA was to say that they supported an "open to all" environment including gays, Grassfire would jump down their throat just as quickly as they now support them.


Personally, I don't have a problem with government facilities being used for Scout activities, nor do I have a problem with government groups sponsoring Scout troops. I just don't see this as an unconstitutional support of religion. But, BSA could help its own cause by stopping trying to look like a religious group. It's not supposed to be. (of course, I think that those guys who sue to get rid of Christmas trees and such have too much time on their hands, but that's just me :-))

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Well, being from TN where Frist is also from, I can tell you that he actually does support the BSA. AND he has already announced that he isn't running again. He is considered by all of us here to be a fine person. He is also a doctor and it was well publisized when he helped an accident victum on the side of a Florida road while in office. He also does alot of volunteer work and donates time to work in 3rd world countries helping those who can't get medical care (even against the wishes of other federal offices). I can neither confirm nor deny wether he himself was a scout but if he wasn't, he should have been. He has the support of alot of scouters here in TN.


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My opinion, not fact:


The BSA is not a religious organization and cannot be one. It is similar to saying that Scouting is a National organization. Scouting encourages good citizens in every single country but does not recognize any one country as being the one country for Scouting. Scouting has national administrators in any country that chooses the program but Scouting's intent is International in scope. The religious intent is Universal and encourages Scouts to strengthen their religious affiliation not weaken it. This means that one must have a belief in a Higher Power, non-specific.


It is my thinking that these court suits do not apply because of the general nature of Scouting and religion. Scouting is by intent one of the most non-discriminating organizations on the planet that anyone will ever find. Scouting wants to bring people together, not rip them apart from each other.


If the Judges find that Scouting somehow does discriminate, then there are thousands of possible CO's that we have yet to even ask. I personally do not find that Scouting is in any danger of collapse in a country with the multitude of resources that are here. This Is not a problem and should not even be viewed as one.






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The text of the bill is below. All it would do, in my opinion, would be to ensure that federal facilities allow access to Scouting units. It would not reinstate military units as COs. Its statement of equal access requirements for local government units is merely a restatement of what the law currently is. In other words, it won't really do anything--especially since most of the attacks are based on Constitutional law, which Congress can't override anyway.


One possible exception that I haven't thought through fully yet: It might affect a situation in which a local school district, for example, limits access to its facilities to groups that do not discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. But even this could just be considered a codification of the Dale case, which is already the law.


Bottom line: If it passes, it will be of no more value than a resolution of support.


(Note: if it's true that Frist won't run for the Senate again, that's just because he wants to run for President. He's pandering to the right wing constituency more and more every day just for that reason.)



To support certain national youth organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America, and for other purposes.



Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,




This Act may be cited as the `Support our Scouts Act of 2005'.




(a) Definitions- In this section--


(1) the term `Federal agency' means each department, agency, instrumentality, or other entity of the United States Government; and


(2) the term `youth organization' means any organization described under part B of subtitle II of title 36, United States Code, that is intended to serve individuals under the age of 21 years.


(b) In General-


(1) SUPPORT FOR YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS- No Federal law (including any rule, regulation, directive, instruction, or order) shall be construed to limit any Federal agency from providing any form of support for a youth organization (including the Boy Scouts of America or any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America) that would result in that Federal agency providing less support to that youth organization (or any similar organization chartered under the chapter of title 36, United States Code, relating to that youth organization) than was provided during each of the preceding 4 fiscal years.


(2) TYPES OF SUPPORT - Support described under paragraph (1) shall include--


(A) holding meetings, camping events, or other activities on Federal property; and


(B) hosting any official event of such organization.




Section 109 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5309) is amended--


(1) in the first sentence of subsection (b) by inserting `or (e)' after `subsection (a)'; and


(2) by adding at the end the following:


`(e) Equal Access-


`(1) DEFINITION- The term `youth organization' means any organization described under part B of subtitle II of title 36, United States Code, that is intended to serve individuals under the age of 21 years.


`(2) IN GENERAL- No State or unit of general local government that has a designated open forum, limited public forum, or nonpublic forum and that is a recipient of assistance under this chapter shall deny equal access or a fair opportunity to meet to, or discriminate against, any youth organization, including the Boy Scouts of America or any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, that wishes to conduct a meeting or otherwise participate in that designated open forum, limited public forum, or nonpublic forum.'.


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Hunt, thank you for posting the text. I am not so sure about your interpretation. If I were a BSA unit that had been chartered to a military unit before the Defense Department memo came out, or if I were the Department of Defense wanting "cover" to rescind or reinterpret that memo, I would point to section 2(b)(1) and basically make the following argument: The military unit sponsored Troop 5 for the past however-many years, more than 4. The military unit only stopped doing so when a directive was received from DOD, stating that BSA units are no longer to be chartered to military units. Chartering a unit is a "form of support." (It is interesting that subsection (b) defines "support" to "include" certain things, and chartering is not mentioned; but the word "include" means that other things might or might not be included.)


Therefore, the DOD directive limited the military unit from providing "any form of support" to a group "officially affiliated with the BSA" (that is, Troop 5) that was provided "during each of the 4 preceding fiscal years." The statute overrides the directive, and therefore (it could be argued) the directive could not be "construed" to limit the military unit from chartering Troop 5, even though that's what the directive says.


The end result here is that I think the statute can be interpreted (and not with a lot of stretching, either) to permit something that is, quite clearly, unconstitutional. Maybe the military would choose not to interpret it that way, but it certainly creates fresh new ground for lawsuits, if nothing else.

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NJCS, I suppose that the military and BSA could agree to move Scout charters anyway, SOS Act or not, to avoid future lawsuits, as is happening with public schools.


As long as BSA access to public facilities is no worse than that of other private entities, I suppose that's the best that can be hoped for.

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If I read correctly what the DOD stated, they were reminding their department of previous directives that prohibited military units from chartering BSA units. So if this law is read the way that is being interpreted here, they can charter units even though they were in violation of DOD to do so in the last four years. I don't know if that is a correct reading.


Again like I have said before bills like this are just grandstanding in order to get press, they really do much if anything.


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