Senator Enzi's full floor statement follows.
Mr. President, I rise in support of amendment No.1342, the Support Our Scouts Act, offered by my distinguished colleague from Tennessee, Senator Frist. The amendment was intended to be simple and straightforward in its purpose, to ensure the Department of Defense can continue to support youth organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America without fear of frivolous lawsuits. The dollars that are being spent on litigation ought to be spent on programs for the youth. Every time we see a group like the Boy Scouts, that will teach character and take care of the community, we ought to do everything we can to promote it.
This week, over 40,000 Boy Scouts from around the nation are meeting at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia for the National Scout Jamboree. This event provides a unique opportunity for the military and civilian communities to help our young men gain a greater understanding of patriotism, comradeship, and self-confidence.
Since the first jamboree was held at the base of the Washington Monument in 1937, more than 600,000 Scouts and leaders have participated in the national events. I attended the Jamboree at Valley Forge in 1957.
Boy Scouts has been a part of my education. I am an Eagle Scout. I am pleased to say my son was in Scouts. He is an Eagle Scout. Boy Scouts is an education. It is an education in possibilities for careers. I can think of no substitution for the 6 million boys in Scouts and the millions who have preceded them. There are dozens on both sides of the aisle who have been Boy Scouts. I say it is part of my education because each of the badges that is earned, each of the merit badges that is earned, is an education. I tell school kids as I go across my State and across my country that even though at times I took courses or merit badges or programs that I didn't see where I would ever have a use for them, by now I have had a use for them and wish I had paid more attention at the time I was doing it.
I always liked a merit badge pamphlet on my desk called ``Entrepreneurship.'' It is the hardest Boy Scout badge to earn. It is one of the most important ones. I believe small business is the future of our country. Boy Scouts promote small business through their internship merit badge. Why would it be the toughest to get? Not only do you have to figure out a plan, devise a business plan, figure how to finance it, but the final requirement for the badge is to start a business.
I could go on and on through the list of merit badges required in order to get an Eagle badge. There are millions of boys in this country who are doing that and will be doing that. They do need places to meet. They are being discriminated against. They are being told they cannot use military facilities, even for their national jamborees.
These jamborees have become a great American tradition for our young people, and Fort A.P. Hill has been made the permanent site of the gatherings. But now the courts are trying to say that this is unconstitutional.
It isn't just military facilities; it is Federal facilities. A couple of years ago, we had an opportunity to debate this again on floor, and it had to do with the Smithsonian.
Some Boy Scouts requested they be able to do the Eagle Scout Court of Honor at the National Zoo and were denied. Why? The determination by the legal staff of the Smithsonian that Scouts discriminate because of their support for and encouragement for the spiritual life of their members. Specifically, they embrace the concept that the universe was created by a supreme being, although we surely point out Scouts do not endorse or require a single belief or any particular faith's God. The mere fact they asked you to believe in and try to foster a relationship with a supreme being who created the universe was enough to disqualify them.
I read that portion of the letter twice. I had just visited the National Archives and read the original document signed by our Founding Fathers. It is a good thing they hadn't asked to sign the Declaration of Independence at the National Zoo.
This happens in the schools across the country. Other requests have been denied. They were also told they were not relevant to the National Zoo.
That is kind of a fascinating experiment in words. I did look to see what other sorts of things had been done there and found they had a Washington Singers musical concert, and the Washington premiers for both the ``Lion King'' and ``Batman.'' Clearly, relevance was not a determining factor in those decisions.
But the Boy Scouts have done some particular things in conservation that are important, in conservation tied in with the zoo. In fact, the founder of the National Zoo was Dr. William Hornaday. He is one of the people who was involved in some of the special conservation movements and has one of the conservation badges of Scouts named after him.
If the situations did not arise, this amendment would not come up. But they do.
In 2001, I worked with Senator Helms to pass a similar amendment requiring that the Boy Scouts are treated fairly, as any other organization, in their efforts to hold meetings on public school property. This amendment clarified the difference between support and discrimination, and it has been successful in preventing future unnecessary lawsuits. The Frist amendment is similar to the Helms amendment and will help prevent future confusion.
Again and again, the Scouts have had to use the courts to assure that they were not discriminated against. I am pretty sure everybody in America recognizes if you have to use the courts to get your rights to use school buildings, military bases, or other facilities, it costs money. It costs time. This amendment eliminates that cost and eliminates that time, to allow all nationally recognized youth organizations to have the same rights.
The legal system is very important in the country but it has some interesting repercussions. Our system of lawsuits, which sometimes are called the legal lottery of this country, allow people who think they have been harmed to try to point out who harmed them and get money for doing that. It has had some difficulties for the Boy Scouts.
I remember when my son was in the Scouts their annual fundraiser was selling Christmas trees. One of the requirements when they were selling Christmas trees was that the boys selling trees at the lot had to be accompanied by two adults not from the same family.
I did not understand why we needed all of this adult supervision. It seemed as if one adult helping out at the lot would be sufficient. The answer was, they have been sued because if there was only one adult there and that adult could be accused of abusing the boys. Two adults provided some assurance that a lawsuit would not happen.
The interesting thing is, it was just me and my son at the lot and we still had to have another adult in order to keep the Boy Scouts from being sued.
They run into some of the same difficulties with car caravans.
So the legal system of this country has put them in the position where they are doing some of the things that they are doing. The legal system of the country has caused some of the discrimination that is done.
It is something we need to correct. This discussion of the Frist amendment is timely. U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning recently ruled that the Pentagon could no longer spend government money to ready Fort A.P. Hill for the National Boy Scout Jamboree. The Frist amendment would assure that our free speech protections would also apply to the Boy Scouts of America.
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the oldest and largest youth organizations in the United States and the world today. The organization teaches its members to do their duty to God, to love their country, and serve their fellow citizens. The Boy Scouts have formed the minds and hearts of millions of Americans and prepared these boys and young men for the challenges they are sure to face the rest of their lives. It is an essential part of Americana. I urge my colleagues to join me in defending the Boy Scouts from constitutional discrimination by supporting the Frist amendment.
I yield the floor.