A WEEK AGO YESTERDAY President Bush spoke before the more than 30,000 Boy Scouts attending the 16th National Scout Jamboree. The tragic deaths by electrocution of four adult Scout leaders on July 25 dominated news of the Jamboree, and the coverage of Bush's speech was perfunctory at best. Like many of President Bush's formal speeches, however, his remarks are worth reading in their entirety. They are eloquent, funny, personal, and moving.
The Jamboree took place at Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County, Virginia--its permanent home since 1981. Yet most coverage of the president's speech failed to note that the 2005 Jamboree may be the Scouts' last at the site. On June 22, Illinois federal district court Judge Blanche Manning prohibited the Defense Department from allowing the Scouts to use the site for future Jamborees.
WHY? Well, for the past 25 years the American Civil Liberties Union has conducted a legal war on the Boy Scouts. In 1980, the ACLU filed its first lawsuit seeking to remold the Scouts into an organization more to its liking. Claiming that the Scouts constituted a "public accommodation" for the purpose of state and local civil rights laws, the ACLU brought a discrimination suit against the Scouts on behalf of a troop leader excluded from membership after he took a male date to his senior prom. According to the ACLU throughout years of litigation, the Scouts didn't believe in anything in particular, so that its associational rights were not infringed by subjugation to the imperatives of state and local discrimination law.
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