Government Funding of Boys Scouts' Discriminatory Policies Unacceptable

WASHINGTON, DC-The Secular Coalition for America is disappointed at the recent decision by the Boy Scouts of America to continue its policy of discrimination against nontheists and the LGBT community.

The Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday that after a two year review, it is reaffirming its ban on gay and nontheistic members. While the Boy Scouts claim they can discriminate because they are a private organization, they hold a Congressional Charter and enjoy support and participation from government agencies and officials.

The Secular Coalition for America calls on the United States government to end any taxpayer funding of the organization while it continues its discriminatory practices.

"It is unconscionable that an organization that discriminates against Americans based on religion and sexual orientation is permitted to do so with the support of the taxpayer funding," said Lauren Anderson Youngblood, Secular Coalition for America communications manager. "If the Boy Scouts is determined to continue discriminating, it should be stripped of all public funding and support from public agencies."

Some of the support the BSA receives from the government are:

  • The US Code authorizes the Secretary of Defense to lend supplies and equipment and transportation for Boy Scout events.
  • All branches of the military issue a promotion (to E2 or E3) for Eagle Scouts, the highest Boy Scout rank. This constitutes discrimination in hiring by the military as well as government approval of the Boy Scouts' discriminatory policies.
  • Equal Opportunity regulations in the military explicitly prohibit support of organizations that discriminate. Yet there is a close collaboration between the military and the Scouts. Department of Defense Instruction 1015.9 directs the Secretary of the Army to the Executive Agent for all components of the DoD to promote scouting among military families as directed by the President.
  • The U.S. President traditionally serves as the honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America, a tradition which President Obama has continued.
  • In early 2005, Congress passed a resolution expressing a sense of the Congress that the Department of Defense should support BSA activities through the use of military personnel, federal land use, and other assistance for their massive Jamborees. The 2005 Jamboree cost taxpayers approximately $8 million.
  • In 2008, Congress voted to pass the "Boy Scouts of America Centennial Commemorative Coin Act" (H.R. 5872). The bill mandated that the U.S. Mint create and sell as many as 350,000 one dollar coins commemorating the Scouts' centennial in the year 2010. A ten dollar surcharge on each coin goes directly to the Boy Scouts of America, who will net as much as $3.5 million in the deal.

"The Boy Scouts enjoy special privileges from the Department of Defense, including funding, facilities, organization, advertising, and incentives in hiring for their Eagle Scouts," said Jason Torpy, President of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. " The BSA should reject public promotions if they wish to operate as a private organization. If they wish to be quasi-government youth development agency, then the federal government should require they abandon discrimination based on belief and sexual orientation."

Anti-discrimination laws as well as the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment should prohibit federal support of the BSA. The courts have allowed the BSA (as a private membership organization) to discriminate, but the U.S. government must not be permitted to aid in such discriminatory behavior.

"When Congress gives money to the Boy Scouts, it is implicitly endorsing the religious discrimination practiced by the organization," said Youngblood. "They are implying to young boys that only those who believe in god can be good citizens-not only is that immoral, but also unconstitutional."

CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA Communications Manager, at 202-299-1091 ext. 205 or laure@secular.org

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