Should the ACLU Challenge Government Sponsorship of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Boy Scouts of America's (BSA) Legal Issues website, updated in 2004, posted BSA's policy regarding Youth and Adult Volunteers and BSA's Employment policy, which stated:

"Boy Scouts of America believes that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God... Because of its views concerning the duty to God, Boy Scouts of America believes that an atheist or agnostic is not an appropriate role model of the Scout Oath and Law for adolescent boys. Because of Scouting's methods and beliefs, Scouting does not accept atheists and agnostics as adult volunteer leaders...

[I]n the exercise of their constitutional right to bring the values of Scouting to youth members, the Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals, or others as professional Scouters or in other capacities in which such employment would tend to interfere with the mission of reinforcing the values of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law in young people."

[Editor's Note: The British, Canadian, Australian, and European chapters of the Boy Scouts do not ban homosexual participation (as of Oct. 29, 2007).]

2004 - Boy Scouts of America (BSA) 



PRO (yes)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon, in its Apr. 22, 2005 article "Civil Liberties and the Boys Scouts: What Are the Issues?" wrote that:

"Most of [the] lawsuits [regarding BSA's discriminatory policies] have revolved around the issue of whether or not the BSA is a 'place of public accommodation' which would be prohibited from engaging in discrimination on the basis of religion or, under some state and local laws, on the basis of sexual orientation.

The BSA has argued in those court cases that they are a private organization which has a right to restrict its membership, leadership and hiring on the basis of religion and sexual orientation. And yet, when it is pointed out that the state and federal constitutions prohibit government sponsorship or support of religious institutions, the BSA sometimes attempts to argue that it is not a religious institution.

The BSA can't have it both ways. If the organization wants to continue to have discriminatory policies, it must forego government sponsorship and financial support of its programs."

Apr. 22, 2005 - American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 



Eugene Winkler, former Methodist Minister and the plaintiff represented by the ACLU in the case Winkler v. City of Chicago, in a July 7, 2005 Associated Press article titled "Judge: No Gov't Money for Boy Scout Trip," stated that:

"We're not attacking the Scouts and neither is the ACLU... This issue is not about the Boy Scouts at all. It's about government funding for religious purposes. It's about separation of church and state."

July 7, 2005 - Eugene Winkler 



Austin Cline, MA, Agnosticism/Atheism guide for About.com, wrote in a Mar. 13, 2005 article "Boy Scouts to Pull Charters from Government Entities," that:

"[W]hat the ACLU considers 'warrant for legal action' is the government's support for discrimination against two groups of citizens: atheists and gays... [S]hould the government provide active aid, assistance, support, and financing to organizations that discriminate against classes of citizens based upon stereotypes and prejudices?...

More direct pressure from groups like the ACLU may be the only recourse that public democracy has — which may be why conservatives like Zeiger call them a 'monster.' They, after all, place the public goods of equality and citizenship above the private prejudices of bigotry and 'values.'"

Mar. 13, 2005 - Austin Cline, MA 



Jeff Archer, President of the Atheist Coalition of San Diego, wrote in his Jan. 9, 2004 article "Mr. Foley Was Right," that:

"There is no problem with private groups who discriminate if they remain private. The problems enter when the groups who discriminate also gain taxpayer subsidies for their organizations. The Boy Scouts of America reap the benefits of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars of such subsidies.

When a group meets at the local police station, or public school, taxpayer dollars are used to support it. In addition, the U.S. military sponsors many Boy Scout activities; again using taxpayer dollars. Such activity is nothing more than subsidized discrimination."

Jan. 9, 2004 - Jeff Archer 



CON (no)

Hans Zeiger, Founder and President of the Scout Honor Coalition, wrote in his Mar. 12, 2005 column "Boy Scouts Emergency," in RenewAmerica, that:

"The American Civil Liberties Union is a monster... There is no question that the ACLU has distracted the Scouts from singly pursuing its mission in recent years. A constant stream of litigation and controversy over its policies banning homosexuals and atheists has transformed the Boy Scouts from a universally respected community institution into a political and cultural symbol. The Boy Scouts of America has not changed — it clings to the same principles it did at its founding in 1910 — but the legal and moral culture has changed dramatically...

The Boy Scouts are feeling the weight of that change. The ACLU is the pressure agent, and the Boy Scouts realize the options: either give in or spend millions of dollars in the court of law and of public opinion defending the presence of chartered troops in America's public schools...

If the Boy Scouts follow through with early plans to undo public school sponsorships, the ACLU will reach new heights of power in the American legal system. Without even filing a lawsuit, the ACLU will have the unprecedented ability to fell an organization or a cause with nothing more than a 37-cent stamp on a threat letter."

Mar. 12, 2005 - Hans Zeiger 



The Wall Street Journal stated in its Nov. 26, 2004 editorial page titled "Bashing the Boy Scouts," that:

"Legal historians may someday explain how the once-great American Civil Liberties Union came to see the Boy Scouts as public enemy number one. In the meantime, the ACLU keeps on bringing its absurd First Amendment challenges against the Scouts...

The question no one seems to be asking is, who's better off as a result of these lawsuits? Surely not the 3.2 million Boy Scouts, whose venerable organization is part of the web of voluntary associations once considered the bedrock of American life. If anything, the purpose of the ACLU attacks is to paint Scouts as religious bigots. Other losers are communities themselves, which are forced to sever ties to an organization that helps to build character in young men.

It's been 20 years since the ACLU brought its first suit against the Scouts. If there's one thing we've learned by now, it's that the ACLU offensive says more about the degraded status of the civil liberties group than it does about the Boy Scouts."

Nov. 26, 2004 - Wall Street Journal 



The Traditional Values Coalition Chairman, Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, stated in a Nov. 16, 2004 press release titled "Department of Defense Caves to ACLU's Anti-Boy Scout Agenda":

"The 'Anti-Christian' Liberties Union (ACLU) continues its war against the Boy Scouts. It has succeeded in forcing the Pentagon to issue a warning to military bases around the world to avoid sponsoring Boy Scout troops...

This is a victory of humanistic fascism over religious freedom and the right of private organizations to set their own membership standards... The ACLU has a godless agenda and has no interest in preserving religious liberty or freedom of association. Americans should soundly condemn this fascist-type organization for its relentless attacks on the Boy Scouts and religious freedom."

Nov. 16, 2004 - Traditional Values Coalition