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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

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 Pentagon must ban Boy Scouts

In a victory for civil liberties, the Pentagon has agreed to warn military bases worldwide not to directly sponsor Boy Scout troops, partially resolving claims that the government has engaged in religious discrimination by supporting a group that requires members to believe in God.

The settlement announced Monday is part of a series of legal challenges in recent years over how closely the government should be aligned with the Boy Scouts of America.

Civil liberties advocates have set their sights on the organization's policies because the group bans openly gay scout leaders and compels members to swear an oath of duty to God. The ACLU believes that direct government sponsorship of such a program amounts to discrimination. Other scouting organizations, such as Campfire USA, do not discriminate.

The rule does not prevent service members from leading Scout troops unofficially on their own time, and Scouts will still be able to hold meetings on areas of military bases where civilian organizations are allowed to hold events.

The settlement does not resolve other ACLU claims involving government spending that benefits the Boy Scouts, such as money used to prepare a Virginia military base for the Boy Scout Jamboree and grants used by state and local governments to benefit the Boy Scouts.

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