Alpine Summit

Friday, July 22, 2005

Scouting Out Confrontation

My friend sent me a copy of the Senate record yesterday about a bill introduced to ensure DoD funding of the scouts. Since they aren't a religious group, they should be given equal funding. Anyway, I read Senator Enzi's comments and it made me happy. I should also point out that I'm not a huge fan of the boy scouts for personal reasons, but I do recognize that for a lot of boys it is a great place to meet people, learn life skills and just have a good time.

Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I rise in support of amendment No. 1342, the Support Our Scouts Act, offered by my distinguished colleague from Tennessee, Senator Frist. The amendment was intended to be simple and straightforward in its purpose, to ensure the Department of Defense can continue to support youth organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America, without fear of frivolous lawsuits. The dollars that are being spent on litigation ought to be spent on programs for the youth. Every time we see a group like the Boy Scouts , that will teach character and take care of the community, we ought to do everything we can to promote it.

This Saturday, over 40,000 Boy Scouts from around the Nation will meet at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia for the National Scout Jamboree. This event provides a unique opportunity for the military and civilian communities to help our young men gain a greater understanding of patriotism, comradeship, and self-confidence.

Since the first jamboree was held at the base of the Washington Monument in 1937, more than 600,000 Scouts and leaders have participated in the national events. I attended the jamboree at Valley Forge in 1957.

Boy Scouts has been a part of my education. I am an Eagle Scout. I am pleased to say my son was in Scouts . He is an Eagle Scout. Boy Scouts is an education. It is an education in possibilities for careers. I can think of no substitution for the 6 million boys in Scouts and the millions who have preceded them. There are dozens on both sides of the aisle who have been Boy Scouts . I say it is part of my education because each of the badges that is earned, each of the merit badges that is earned, is an education. I tell schoolkids as I go across my State and across my country that even though at times I took courses or merit badges or programs that I didn't see where I would ever have a use for them, by now I have had a use for them and wish I had paid more attention at the time I was doing it.

I always liked a merit badge pamphlet on my desk called ``Entrepreneurship.'' It is the hardest Boy Scout badge to earn. It is one of the most important ones. I believe small business is the future of our country. Boy Scouts promote small business through their internship merit badge. Why would it be the toughest to get? Not only do you have to figure out a plan, devise a business plan, figure how to finance it, but the final requirement for the badge is to start a business.

I could go on and on through the list of merit badges required in order to get an Eagle badge. There are millions of boys in this country who are doing that and will be doing that. They do need places to meet. They are being discriminated against. They are being told they cannot use military facilities, even for their national jamborees.

These jamborees have become a great American tradition for our young people, and Fort A.P. Hill has been made the permanent site of the gatherings. But now the courts are trying to say that this is unconstitutional.

It isn't just military facilities; it is Federal facilities. A couple of years ago, we had an opportunity to debate this again on floor, and it had to do with the Smithsonian.

Some Boy Scouts requested they be able to do the Eagle Scout Court of Honor at the National Zoo and were denied. Why? The determination by the legal staff of the Smithsonian that Scouts discriminate because of their support for and encouragement for the spiritual life of their members. Specifically, they embrace the concept that the universe was created by a supreme being, although we surely point out Scouts do not endorse or require a single belief or any particular faith's God. The mere fact they asked you to believe in and try to foster a relationship with a supreme being who created the universe was enough to disqualify them.

I read that portion of the letter twice. I had just visited the National Archives and read the original document signed by our Founding Fathers. It is a good thing they hadn't asked to sign the Declaration of Independence at the National Zoo.

This happens in the schools across the country. Other requests have been denied. They were also told they were not relevant to the National Zoo.

That is kind of a fascinating experiment in words. I did look to see what other sorts of things had been done there and found they had a Washington Singers musical concert, and the Washington

premiers for both the ``Lion King'' and ``Batman.'' Clearly, relevance was not a determining factor in those decisions.

But the Boy Scouts have done some particular things in conservation that are important, in conservation tied in with the zoo. In fact, the founder of the National Zoo was Dr. William Hornaday. He is one of the people who was involved in some of the special conservation movements and has one of the conservation badges of Scouts named after him.

You can go here for the raw data if you wish. Senator Frist's comments were good too. Look for the Senate documents from July 21, 2005. I would also recommend you use Firefox. It has a great page search feature built in to find keywords on a displayed page.