The American Civil Liberties Union has found a sympathetic ear for its latest assault against the Boy Scouts. At issue is the famous Jamboree, held since 1981 at Fort A. P. Hill in Virginia and indirectly receiving support from the Army in billeting, infrastructure, and so forth. The ACLU argues that this arrangement breaches the First Amendment’s separation between church and state. A federal judge in Chicago concurs, declaring government aid for the Jamboree unconstitutional.
Because the Scouts require members to “privately exercise their religious faith as directed by their families and religious advisors,” the ACLU petitioned the court to declare the organization “theistic” and “pervasively sectarian.” Judge Blanche Manning didn’t go quite that far last month, but she did rule it an overtly religious association because it “excludes atheists and agnostics from membership.” She ordered the Army to expel the next Jamboree from Fort A. P. Hill in 2010, by which time we trust the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will have overturned her decision.
Judge Manning didn’t cancel this year’s Jamboree, which will go on as scheduled next week despite the perils to the Constitution. If Her Honor paid a visit, she’d learn that the 40,000 young men aren’t gathering for a tent revival meeting or Great Awakening. Mostly, they’re getting together to cultivate an appreciation for the outdoors and to participate in the rites of summer camp.
More to the point, the Scouts will celebrate what they call their “bedrock values,” which, yes, include faith, but also patriotism, courage, service, conservation and civic virtue. Contrary to Judge Manning’s inability to “ascertain any harm to the public interest in enjoining the Jamboree,” we would argue that the values the Scouts embody are vital to the national good and in need today, more than ever.
From The Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2005