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The ACLU vs. the Boy Scouts
by Hans Zeiger
15 January 2004

The ACLU is getting close to its goal of moving the Boy Scouts out of San Diego's Balboa Park.

The ACLU needs a new summer camp for its young folks, preferably in San Diego's Balboa Park. The PC Scouts, as we'll call them, will head off to Balboa to obtain Rights Badges (as opposed to merit badges) and learn the meaning of the PC scout Oath: "On my self-esteem, I will do whatever feels good for myself; And to question authority, To help myself at all times, To keep myself physically gratified, Mentally interested, And morally tolerant."

But the ACLU has a bit of a problem: the coveted camp in Balboa Park is currently being used by the Boy Scouts of America, the arch-enemy of the ACLU. In order to train up a vast new generation of PC scouts, the ACLU must figure out a way to move the Boy Scouts out of Balboa Park (and out of the rest of America too).

On Thursday, the ACLU came much closer to its goal. The landlord of the Boy Scout camp in Balboa Park, the City of San Diego, switched sides from supporting the Boy Scouts to supporting the ACLU in its quest to destroy the Scouts. As settlement of an ACLU lawsuit against the City of San Diego and the Scouts, the City of San Diego decided to abandon the Scouts in their appeal to remain in Balboa Park.

Last July, U.S. District Judge Napoleon Jones ruled that the Boy Scouts of America is a religious organization. Their presence in Balboa Park was considered a violation of the separation of church and state. Because the Scouts believe in God, said Judge Jones, there is "overwhelming and uncontradicted evidence" that the Scouts have received preferential treatment in being able to lease Balboa Park.

Under terms of the new settlement, San Diego must request Judge Jones to cancel the Boy Scouts' lease on Balboa Park. The city will also pay the ACLU nearly $1 million in court costs and attorney fees, which will, of course, help finance further attacks against the Boy Scouts.

Now that the City of San Diego has given up on the Boy Scouts of America, a nearly 90-year relationship has come to an end. It began after the 1915 San Diego World's Fair in Balboa Park when the Santa Fe Railroad donated its Pueblo Indian Village to local Boy Scouts with approval by the San Diego Parks Commission. For 25 years, the Scouts used the Indian Village as a headquarters and recreation site free of charge. During World War Two, the military took possession of Balboa Park and the Boy Scouts launched their volunteer campaigns to help the war effort from a makeshift headquarters in a local theater.

At the end of the war, the San Diego City Council passed a resolution authorizing the Boy Scouts to take charge of several acres of land in Balboa Park. Through fundraising and volunteer work, a state-of-the-art swimming pool and a 600-seat outdoor amphitheater were constructed. In 1949, the Boy Scouts Desert Pacific Council headquarters building was completed.

Parts of Balboa Park remained undeveloped by 1957, so the city council agreed to transfer additional property to the Boy Scouts for maintenance and operations. A fifty-year lease was signed with a rental fee of one dollar per year.

Today, Camp Balboa accommodates up to 300 campers at a time, and it offers a variety of year-round programs. Each year, 12,000 Boy Scouts take part in day camps, weekend camps, and merit badge classes.

But the Boy Scouts don't have exclusive access to their own camp. Anyone can use it. Last summer, the two-day San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Festival was held at Balboa Park.

And the Boy Scouts take good care of Balboa Park. The Scouts have spent millions of dollars developing and maintaining the public park over the years, without burden to the city and its taxpayers. In the language of free market think tanks, that's a classic public-private partnership.

The ACLU cares nothing about saving taxpayers money, nor that the Scouts perform millions of dollars and thousands of hours worth of public service for the San Diego community, nor about the fact that the Scouts have been in the park for most of nine decades. The ACLU simply wants to destroy the Boy Scouts of America.

The ACLU is celebrating the capitulation of the City of San Diego. Now the Boy Scouts are left quite alone in a hostile court system to appeal the ruling of Judge Jones. It is likely they'll be kicked out of their historic camp for good if Americans don't act fast.

The Boy Scouts need our help. Citizens of San Diego must pack the next city council meeting and express their disapproval of this hideous surrender to the ACLU. Congress must immediately seek the impeachment of Judge Napoleon Jones who ruled that the Boy Scouts cannot have dealings with government because the Scouts is a religious organization.

And the Boy Scouts need help with legal bills. Americans from coast to coast must send checks to the Boy Scouts and to the Scouting Legal Defense Fund.

The Boy Scouts have done plenty of good turns for San Diego. Now it is time for San Diego -- and all of America -- to do a good turn for the Boy Scouts.

Hans Zeiger is a Seattle Times columnist and conservative activist. He is president of the Scout Honor Coalition and a student at Hillsdale College in Michigan

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