WASHINGTON – The House on Saturday commended the Boy Scouts (search) and condemned legal efforts to limit government ties to the group because of its requirement that members believe in God.
A nonbinding resolution, passed by a 391-3 vote, recognized the 3.2 million-member Boy Scouts for its public service efforts. But the main thrust of the debate was what the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said were the "strident legal attacks" on the group.
The Pentagon (search) agreed last week to tell U.S. military bases around the world not to directly sponsor Boy Scout troops. The warning resulted from legal challenges to government relations with a group that bans openly gay leaders and compels members to swear an oath of duty to God.
The American Civil Liberties Union (search) and others say that direct government sponsorship of such a program amounts to discrimination.
The Pentagon's ruling does not prevent service members from leading Boy Scout troops on their own time. Also, Boy Scouts still can meet on areas of military bases where civilian organizations are allowed to hold events.
Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz. said the ACLU's challenge was a "nuisance lawsuit" and he was urging Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to reconsider the Pentagon's position.
"Scouting values, military values, citizenship values, a respect and reverence for a creator are not a violation of the doctrine of church and state," said Hayworth, who was an Eagle Scout.
The measure's sponsor, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Congress would work "to defend the Boy Scout's ability to continue the fine work that they have done for nearly a century."
Voting against the resolution were Democratic Reps. John Dingell of Michigan, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Lynn Woolsey of California.