Originally created 11/22/04

Fort cannot sponsor Scouts

The Pentagon has ordered Fort Gordon and other military installations not to sponsor the Boy Scouts of America.

But that doesn't really change much between the fort and the Scouts, officials say. The post didn't officially sponsor any scouting groups before the order was given last week.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced a partial settlement of a lawsuit filed against the Defense Department by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In the suit, the ACLU alleged that the Pentagon and the Department of Housing and Urban Development violated the First Amendment by spending funds in support of the Boy Scouts, according to the Justice Department.

The Boy Scouts of America requires members to swear an oath of duty to God.

Part of the settlement serves to "clarify" the Defense Department's policy against official sponsorship of private organizations, the Justice Department said.

James Hudgins, the post's chief public affairs officer, said neither the post nor any of the military units housed at the fort currently sponsors any Boy Scout groups.

"In years past - a decade or more ago, the Scouts had a special relationship with the military in that they thought it was a great recruiting tool," Mr. Hudgins said. "Now, they're treated like any other group."

The agreement does not prevent Scouts from meeting on military installations and using facilities available to the public, nor does it forbid military personnel from participating in scouting activities on their own time.

Bill Lesshafft, a Scout executive and the CEO of the Georgia-Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said the order will not affect the relationship between Fort Gordon and the local council, which sometimes uses facilities at the post.

"Fort Gordon has some great resources," he said. "It's one of the best kept secrets in Augusta."

He said many military families are involved in scouting because it's a constant in a life filled with many relocations.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.


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