Winkler v. Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, et al
ACLU of Illinois filed a federal lawsuit in 1997 to stop 35 public schools in Chicago from sponsoring Boy Scout troops. The lawsuit stated that since the BSA discriminates against gay people and non-religious people, this taxpayer sponsorship violates the separation of church and state and equal rights.
In a binding settlement agreement entered in federal court on February 4, 1998, the city of Chicago formally ended all support for BSA programs as long as the Boy
Scouts of America continue to discriminate on the basis of religious belief and sexual orientation. However, the lawsuit against the federal entities (Department of Defense, Housing and Urban Development, etc) continued. The following is taken from the Navy's Judge Advocate General web site:
Navy OJAG and JAD are in the discovery phase with DOJ on Winkler v. Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees, et al. (N.D. Illinois). In Winkler, the plaintiffs brought a taxpayer lawsuit
against DoD and others seeking to stop alleged state and federal support and sponsorship of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). We are currently partaking in the battle of interrogatories and document production. For your part, ensure your commanders are not entering into chartering agreements with local BSA units. These agreements, which form the basis for the lawsuit, require commanders to officially sponsor the BSA unit, ascribing to all tenets of the BSA. While BSA
units remain a viable morale and welfare vehicle for our families, we must ensure our logistics and financial support meets statutory and regulatory requirements.
In 2005, U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning ruled that the Department of Defense's historic support of the national Boy Scout Jamboree is unconstitutional, issuing an injunction against the Pentagon's future participation in the event. She wrote that the plaintiffs in the suit had
"shown irreparable injury that ... their constitutional rights as taxpayers are being violated." This ruling did not effect the 2005 Jamboree, for which the federal taxpayers planned to spend $7.3 million to support the BSA's Jamboree.
This ruling prevented the BSA from using military bases for free and receiving taxpayer funding for its private religious gatherings. This resulted in the BSA acquiring land in
West Virginia, with money from the Bechtel Foundation, to host future national jamborees.
This effectively closed this case.
Pentagon to Cut Off Boy Scouts From Bases
CHICAGO - 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, a venerable organization that boasts a membership of more than 3.2 million members.
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.
"If our Constitution's promise of religious liberty is to be a reality, the government
should not be administering religious oaths or discriminating based on religious beliefs," said ACLU attorney Adam Schwartz.
The Pentagon said it has long had a rule against sponsorship of non-federal organizations and denied the rule had been violated. But it agreed to send a message to posts worldwide warning them not to sponsor Boy Scout troops or other such groups.
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, Schwartz said.
He said the Pentagon spends $2 million every year to prepare the Virginia base for the jamboree, held once every four years. He said the Defense Department also makes annual allocations of $100,000 to support Boy Scout units on military bases overseas and $100,000 to improve Boy Scout properties, such as summer camps.
Attorney Marcia Berman, who represented the Defense Department, declined to comment on the settlement Monday. But Justice Department spokesman Charles
Miller said the message that will be sent to bases represents "a clarification of an existing rule that DOD personnel cannot be involved in an official capacity."
The original ACLU lawsuit named as defendants the Department of Defense, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Chicago Board of Education. The schools settled, agreeing not to engage in official sponsorship of scouting activities.
Statement by the Boy Scouts of America
Regarding the Settlement Between
the ACLU and the Department of Defense
We understand that the Department of Defense intends to remind all military
entities that they may not sponsor or charter traditional Boy Scout units. We have directed our local councils to work with the unit leadership to find an alternative non-governmental chartering organization, such as a VFW Post or American Legion. This settlement will have no impact on Scouts or their families. Boy Scouts will be able to use military bases as meeting places and for other functions such as
camping on the same basis as any other citizen group. This will not have any effect on plans for the BSA Jamboree next summer.
For more information on this case, click here.