Thursday, July 21, 2005
- by Sen. Bill Frist
Just hours ago, I introduced an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill ... "Support Our Scouts Act of 2005."
Earlier this month, an appeals court judge declared Pentagon support for the Boy Scouts of America major gathering - the National Scout Jamboree - unconstitutional.
Well, in the words of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) -- who petitioned the court: the Scouts require members to "privately exercise their religious faith as directed by their families and religious advisors."
That, they argued, was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (separation of church and state).
Sadly, the court agreed.
You're probably wondering what takes place at the National Scout Jamboree ... just what it is that had the ACLU so aghast.
An American tradition, the National Scout Jamboree is a gathering of over 40,000 people -- scouts, moms and dads -- at Ft. A.P. Hill in Virginia (a military base). They come together every four years and learn important skills, such as canoeing, leathercraft, land navigation, first aid, and survival skills.
They also come together to celebrate their bedrock values. They talk about patriotism; they talk about public service; they talk about conservation; they talk about civic virtue; and they talk about faith.
No specific denomination, mind you, but rather the mere acknowledgment of a higher power.
That was enough to set the ACLU attack machine in motion; they put this venerable organization in their crosshairs.
Once again, the ACLU sued the Boy Scouts of America.
This is an organization -- the Boy Scouts of America -- whose motto reads (in part): "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country ..."
They gather - as I once did, as my three sons did, as more than 40 members of the United States Senate and 150 members of the House of Representatives did - to talk about principles.
Principles like honesty, integrity, and character.
My friends, the Boy Scouts of America produce good kids ... the true leaders of tomorrow.
They've been doing it proudly since 1910.
And it's a sad day when we need to enact legislation to enable them to keep doing it ... particularly at a time when we face such unprecedented challenges at home and abroad.
As they say, America's greatness is determined by our goodness.
Well, let me tell you, these kids are as good as it gets. They make us proud.
And we need to stand up for them.
My amendment does the following:
It makes clear that the Congress regards the Boy Scouts of America to be a "youth organization," not a religious organization.
It asserts the view of Congress that government support of the National Scout Jamboree (by the Defense Department) helps with the training of our armed forces.
It removes ANY DOUBT that federal agencies may welcome Scouts to hold meetings and go camping on federal property.
I believe this amendment will receive broad, bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House, and that it will pass this year.
And I hope you will join me in standing up for the Boy Scouts of America by calling your Senators and Representatives and asking them to support the "Support Our Scouts Act of 2005."
As for me, I hope to proudly be among those attending their annual Jamboree next week.
Bill Frist, M.D.
Senate Majority Leader