Alaska editorial: Jamboree should carry on, despite gripes from ACLU

Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2005

This editorial first appeared in the Voice of the Times:

If you want to contrast what is good about the United States and one of the things that has gone awry in our legal system look no further than the Boy Scout Jamboree, convening at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.

More than 40,000 boys and young men - including many from Alaska - gathered to celebrate a camping experience beyond compare, learning about and and enjoying the great outdoors, and growing in the richness that comes with making new friends from all over the country.

The tragedy in Virginia that killed four Alaska Boy Scout leaders Monday was a devastating blow to their families and friends and to Alaska's scouting community. The jamboree closed to the public for a day of mourning, but opened again on Wednesday. Despite the heartbreak caused by their deaths, it's important that the good works of these four men be long remembered and that the jamboree go on.

Yet there are some who would stop all this - or at least stop it from happening in a portion of the 76,000-acre Army facility that has been the permanent home of the Jamboree since 1981.

The objection comes, as you might already have guessed, from the American Civil Liberties Union. The gathering of scouts on the Army post infringes on the First Amendment's provision that calls for separation of church and state, the ACLU contends.

In federal court, it asked a judge to hold that the Boy Scouts of America is "theistic" and "pervasively sectarian."

A U.S. District Court judge in Chicago, Clinton-appointee Blanche Manning, went along with the ACLU, ruling that the Boy Scouts are an overtly religious association that "excludes atheists and agnostics from membership."

She ordered the Army to refuse to let the Scouts meet at A.P. Hill when the next jamboree is scheduled in 2010.

Meanwhile, this year's jamboree will proceed - doing what Scouts have done for generations. Encouraging patriotism. Upholding traditional American family values. Building character. Learning responsibility. Finding ways to serve others. Coming to appreciate civic duties. Having fun working and playing in friendship with others.

Along the way, they will live in tents and build memories that will last a lifetime, and return home next week after a summer camp experience that simply will have enriched their lives.

What aberration in social customs and civic thinking could object to all of that?

Well, obviously, the ACLU can - in its unrelenting efforts in the courts to overturn and declare illegal anything and everything that even has a hint of a heavenly aura.

In the likes of Judge Manning, the ACLU finds its allies.

And to hell with the Boy Scouts of America.

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