The Pentagon has agreed to warn military bases worldwide that they should not directly sponsor Boy Scout troops, partially resolving claims that the government has improperly supported a group that requires members to believe in God.
The settlement, announced Monday, came in a 1999 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which says American military units have sponsored hundreds of Boy Scout troops.
"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 lawyer Adam Schwartz.
The Pentagon said it has long had a rule against sponsorship of non-federal organizations and denied that 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 Scouts, Schwartz said.
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.