Scouts - No more charters from taxpayer-funded groups groups

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Boy Scouts of America's recent decision to end charters from taxpayer-funded institutions will have little effect in Southeast Missouri, according to the Cape Girardeau office of the Scouts' St. Louis Area Council.

The organization entered into an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union last month to stop accepting such charters, a practice that had gone on since the founding of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. The ACLU had threatened a lawsuit against the organization because Scouts pledge "to do my duty to God" in the Scout oath.

The ACLU argues sponsorship by taxpayer-funded institutions represents a joining of church and state because of the oath. Instead of fighting the lawsuit, the Boy Scouts decided to meet the ACLU's demands.

While this has sent many Scout councils scrambling for new sponsors, it is having little effect locally, said Tim O'Donnell with the local council office. No troops or packs in the immediate Cape Girardeau area would be affected, but Cub Scout packs in Gideon, Zalma, Ellington, Farmington and Twin Rivers will have to find new sponsors, he said.

Most groups aren't publicly sponsored.

"Now, through this ACLU suit, they're saying because the BSA has a standard in our Scouting law that says we believe in God, that makes us a religious organization ... which is a reach, but it has such a little effect," O'Donnell said.

O'Donnell also said those who do have to find new sponsors shouldn't have much trouble.

"Of those few we do have, like with schools, we'd go to the PTO," said O'Donnell. "If it's a city, we'd go to the chamber of commerce or one of the service clubs. We don't expect most Scouts to even know that this happened."

"It's not much of a blip on our radar."

O'Donnell most area Scout groups that are affiliated with schools are already sponsored by PTOs and other organizations.

Sponsors who hold charters with troops and packs are "owners" of the group, said O'Donnell. They oversee selection of leaders and Scouts. In return, the charter organization pays $20 to the Boy Scouts of America along with a $10 fee that chartering organizations collect from each Scout.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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