Scouts allowed continued use of military bases
Senate approves measure 98-0
Tuesday, July 26, 2005; Posted: 2:05 p.m. EDT (18:05 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate voted Tuesday to allow U.S. military
bases to continue to host Boy Scouts events, responding to lawsuits
and a federal court ruling aimed at severing relationships between
the government and the youth group.
The vote came one day after four adult Scout leaders were killed on
the opening day of the National Scout Jamboree at the Army's Fort
A.P. Hill in Bowling Green, Virginia, when a tent pole apparently
struck a power line.
In a 98-0 vote, the Senate approved the provision continuing the
hosting of Boy Scout events as part of massive bill setting Defense
Department policy for next year.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, a former Boy Scout
who sponsored the Senate provision, said it is necessary to push back
on a spate of lawsuits to limit Boy Scout activities on government
property. The provision adopted Tuesday says Boy Scouts should be
treated the same as other national youth organizations
Frist said it "removes any doubt that federal agencies may welcome
Scouts to hold meetings, go camping on federal property or hold
scouting events and public forums" on government property.
In 1999, the ACLU of Illinois filed a lawsuit claiming the Pentagon's
sponsorship of such Boy Scout activities violates the First
Amendment. The ACLU argues that direct government sponsorship of the
group amounts to discrimination.
Civil liberties advocates have assailed the Boy Scouts organization
because it bans openly gay leaders and compels members to swear an
oath of duty to God.
On June 22, U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning ruled in the ACLU's
favor, saying the Pentagon can't spend millions of dollars to sponsor
Boy Scout events. She said in an earlier ruling that the government
spent between $6 million and $8 million to host the Jamboree on a
military base in 1997 and 2001.
The House in November overwhelmingly passed a nonbinding resolution
that recognized the Boy Scouts organization for its public service
efforts and condemned legal efforts to limit government ties to the
organization that has 3.2 million members.