Stunning Defeat for ACLU, Victory for Scouts

On April 4, the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit dismissed the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to stop the Defense Department from allowing the Boy Scouts of America to hold their National Jamboree every four years at Fort A.P. Hill in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The opinion can be accessed here.

The ACLU argued that because membership in the Boy Scouts is limited only to those who believe in God, allowing the Boy Scouts to hold their national jamboree on public property is an unconstitutional establishment of religion. But the Court ruled that the ACLU, suing on behalf of individual named taxpayers, did not show standing to bring the lawsuit. Peter Ferrara, General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) explained, "In other words, the court ruled that the ACLU did not show a sufficiently direct interest in the Defense Department's practice regarding the Jamboree to allow it to sue. The ACLU could complain to the Congress or the President over this policy, but they had no business bringing a lawsuit over it and asking the courts to step in."

The Defense Department allows the Jamborees to be held at the fort because it considers the events to be helpful in promoting the military and recruitment. The Defense Department policy is expressly authorized by a Federal statute enacted by Congress. The 10-day Jamboree focuses on activities involving physical fitness, appreciation of the outdoors, and patriotism. Seven Presidents have attended and spoken at the Jamborees starting with Franklin Roosevelt in 1937. The court ruling yesterday opens the way for the Scouts to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the organization at its next Jamboree in 2010.

"What sound public purpose does it serve for the ACLU to be suing an organization like the Boy Scouts over their national jamboree," Ferrara asked. "The interpretation of the Establishment Clause advanced by the ACLU is so extreme that it does not serve to protect liberty, but, rather, it assaults the liberty of the religious and those seeking to promote traditional moral values," Ferrara added.

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