THOMAS P. CADMUS
The Department of Defense issued an absurd warning to U.S. military installations last fall to throttle back support of the Boy Scouts. The gesture was only "partial settlement" of a bigger lawsuit still hot on the agenda of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has made a target of the Scouts in recent years.
The ACLU, of course, wants much more than one little victory in its battle against American values.
The point has been made that the Department of Defense merely reminded its duty-station commanders of a long-ignored policy against direct sponsorship of outside organizations. Routine business. Fewer than 450 Boy Scout troops would be affected, about half of them overseas, where the children of military parents can simply find sponsorship elsewhere. No big deal.
On the contrary, it is a big deal, one that is symptomatic of a larger assault on faith and its place in our free society. Patriotic Americans are justifiably concerned that the "rest of the settlement" with the ACLU resides somewhere near the bottom of a deep and slippery slope.
The ACLU ostensibly wants the Boy Scouts removed from public places because some words in the Scout oath refer to the existence of a higher power. ACLU lawyers contend that even a non-denominational reference to God is a misuse of tax dollars, even a violation of law.
Let's extend the logic. If a military base cannot sponsor a Scout troop because God is merely referenced in the oath, what is the future of military chaplaincies, where God is the main point? Will it become a violation for a soldier, lying burnt and wounded in the belly of a blood-soaked, government-owned Humvee, to pray for his life? And if he should die on the battlefield, should that soldier be denied last rites from a chaplain who receives military pay?
The ACLU's argument would suggest Americans ought not recognize the president of the United States, whose oath of office is recited with right hand on the Bible. The vice president, members of Congress and U.S. Supreme Court justices would likewise be invalidated because their oaths conclude with the words, "So help me God."
If this sounds ridiculous, consider the hell the ACLU has raised over the presence of a solitary cross that has been standing for 70 years at the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial in California to honor World War I soldiers. Consider the ACLU's ongoing attempt to strike God from the Pledge of Allegiance. Consider the tax dollars ACLU attorneys receive from local governments when these topics are debated in court. Talk about misuse of public funds.
Organizations like the Boy Scouts help make this one nation of ours, this nation under God, a little more indivisible. The Department of Defense, by rolling over to the ACLU, moves a step toward erasing faith from the U.S. military.
And when you're fighting a war, as we are today, sometimes that's all you have.
Thomas P. Cadmus is national commander of the 2.7 million-member American Legion, the nation's largest wartime veterans organization and one of the largest sponsors of Scouting in the country.