Thursday, April 05, 2007

Boy Scouts Win One

From Attorney General Bob McDonnell:

Boy Scout Jamboree Cleared to Return to Virginia

Boy Scouts in Virginia, and across the nation, got some good news on Wednesday. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissed a lawsuit filed by the ACLU opposing the Department of Defense's support of the National Boy Scout Jamboree. The Court found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue the Department of Defense.

If the ACLU lawsuit had been successful, the National Boy Scout Jamboree, held every four years at Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County since 1981, would not have been allowed to be held at a military installation for the next scheduled Jamboree in 2010. This would have effectively meant that there would be no more Boy Scout Jamboree in Virginia.

As Attorney General, Bob McDonnell directed the Commonwealth to file an amicus brief in 2006 in support of the Department of Defense and the Boy Scouts. The Attorney General was concerned about protecting a traditional understanding of religious freedom and about the possible loss of the direct and substantial impacts the Jamboree has on the Commonwealth. It is estimated that the 2005 Jamboree brought roughly $17 million into state coffers. An estimated 300,000 visitors attended the 2005 Jamboree.

Speaking about the successful outcome, Attorney General McDonnell noted, "This dismissal is a victory for Virginia, and for the Boy Scouts of America. This patriotic and character building organization has made Virginia its home for the last 25 years. Our economy benefits from the event, and our young people benefit from the positive lessons taught by, and values instilled through, association with the Boy Scouts. I look forward to welcoming the Boy Scouts back to Virginia in 2010 when they will celebrate their 100th Anniversary."

In the case, Winkler v. Gates (Formerly Winkler v. Rumsfeld), the ACLU alleged that the words "duty to God" in the Scout Oath make the group a religious organization, and that any government support for the group, including use of a military facility, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The ACLU was initially successful in a federal district court in Chicago, where a judge ruled that the military's support for the Boy Scouts' Jamboree is unconstitutional. The Department of Defense appealed the case. If the ruling had stood, it would have prevented the military from offering support for the Boy Scouts' Jamboree, despite the fact that the United States military regularly provides support for many other civic organizations.

Robert H. Bork, Jr., spokesperson for the Boy Scouts, noted, "Boy Scouts of America is grateful to Attorney General McDonnell for his support in this case."

"Today's decision allows everyone to get back to planning the centennial Jamboree celebrating Boy Scouts' 100th birthday," said George A. Davidson, the attorney for Boy Scouts of America who argued before the Seventh Circuit last year.

With this dismissal, the ACLU's challenge to this Virginia tradition has been thwarted. Virginia Boy Scouts, and all those associated with this great organization, can once again prepare for another Boy Scout Jamboree in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

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