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The ACLU's Press Release on the Suit against DOD

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  • David Fabie
    Pentagon Agrees to End Direct Sponsorship of Boy Scout Troops in Response to Religious Discrimination Charge November 15, 2004 CHICAGO – In response to a
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 16, 2004
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      Pentagon Agrees to End Direct Sponsorship of Boy Scout Troops in
      Response to Religious Discrimination Charge
      November 15, 2004

      CHICAGO – In response to a religious discrimination lawsuit brought
      by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, the Defense
      Department today agreed to end direct sponsorship of hundreds of Boy
      Scout units, which require members to swear religious oaths, on
      military facilities across the United States and overseas.


      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
      Contact: media@...

      CHICAGO - In response to a religious discrimination lawsuit brought
      by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, the Defense
      Department today agreed to end direct sponsorship of hundreds of Boy
      Scout units, which require members to swear religious oaths, on
      military facilities across the United States and overseas.

      "If our Constitution's promise of religious liberty is to be a
      reality, the government should not be administering religious oaths
      or discriminating based upon religious beliefs," said Adam Schwartz
      of the ACLU of Illinois. "This agreement removes the Pentagon from
      direct sponsorship of Scout troops that engage in religious
      discrimination."

      Previously, Defense Department units held charters to lead hundreds
      of Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs, which exclude youths who do
      not believe in God. Additionally, the Boy Scouts of America requires
      troop and pack leaders, in this case government employees, to compel
      youth to swear an oath of duty to God. The ACLU of Illinois charged
      that the Boy Scouts' policy violates the religious liberty of youth
      who wish to participate but do not wish to swear a religious oath,
      and that direct government sponsorship of such a program is religious
      discrimination.

      Today's settlement addresses a major portion of a lawsuit first filed
      in 1999. In that lawsuit, the ACLU of Illinois challenged the use of
      public funds by the Chicago Public Schools, the Defense Department
      and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to support Boy
      Scout troops. The Chicago Public Schools previously entered into a
      settlement agreeing to stop their direct sponsorship of Boy Scout
      troops.

      Under the terms of today's settlement, the Defense Department has 60
      days to issue a statement to U.S. defense facilities and military
      bases across the world making clear that Defense officials may not
      sponsor Boy Scout organizations. The settlement, however, does not
      prohibit off-duty government employees from sponsoring Boy Scout
      troops on their own time. The Boy Scouts will still also have access
      to any military facilities that are currently made available to other
      non-governmental organizations.

      "It is critical that the Pentagon send this very clear signal to its
      units across the globe to ensure that government officials are not
      engaged in religious discrimination in their official capacity," said
      Charles Peters of the Chicago law firm Schiff Hardin who assisted the
      ACLU of Illinois in the lawsuit.

      The federal court in Chicago still must decide whether the Defense
      Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development can
      spend millions of taxpayer dollars to support Boy Scout units that
      practice religious discrimination and require religious oaths. The
      ACLU of Illinois has raised concern, for example, about the
      Pentagon's handpicking the Boy Scouts of America - and no other
      organization - for the expenditure of an average of $2 million each
      year to support the national Boy Scout Jamboree. A decision on this
      and other issues is pending.

      The agreement was presented to U.S. District Court Judge Blanche
      Manning. In addition to Peters, Laura Friedel and David Scott of
      Schiff Hardin are also assisting the ACLU of Illinois in the case.

      © ACLU, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor New York, NY 10004 This is the
      Web site of the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU
      Foundation.
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