The Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard facility regularly hosts tours for Boy Scout troops and other organizations, but the Trailmen were told they could not participate because they belonged to a Christian scouting organization.
Trail Life USA is a church-based, Christ-centered and boy-focused scouting organization that was founded in 2013 as an alternative to the Boy Scouts.
The National Guard’s public affairs office did not return multiple inquiries seeking comment.
The ordeal began in February when Troop PA-2717 were initially told they could tour the facility. In April, a staff sergeant called the troop master and said the tour had been denied because of the group’s religious affiliation.
The idea that Christian boys would be banned strictly because of their religious beliefs is not only ludicrous, but it’s also illegal.
And that’s why the Trail Life troop got in touch with First Liberty Institute and the Independence Law Center, two organizations that specialize in religious liberty cases.
“Fort Indiantown Gap’s denial of access to the base facilities, which are open to other civic, fraternal, and youth organizations and for youth activities, constitutes viewpoint discrimination,” the law firms wrote in a letter to the National Guard.
The attorneys said the National Guard’s decision to ban the Christian scouting group is “discriminatory and unconstitutional.”
John Stemberger, the chairman of the Trail Life USA board, said told the "Todd Starnes Radio Show" that it’s disheartening that a “federal institution like the Army is buying into this leftist idea that faith has to be excluded from the public square.”
“It’s sad that an institution of our society is treating faith like it is some kind of bacteria or virus that needs to be exterminated from secular society,” Stemberger told me. “We need faith integrated with society.”
The good news is that once First Liberty Institute and the Independence Law Center got involved, the National Guard quickly backed down and rescinded the ban on the Trailmen.
“We are grateful that the Guard has chosen to open its doors to the Trail Life troop,” ILC attorney Jeremy Samek said in a statement. “The boys from Trail Life USA’s troop deserve to be treated fairly and equally. I know they are excited to get the opportunity to interact with those who defend our freedom.”
Stemberger told me he was mighty thankful for the work of the religious liberty law firms.
“Thank God for good lawyers,” he said.
Regardless, supporters of Trail Life USA expressed their bewilderment that Christians would have to fight for the right to tour a National Guard facility.
“Political correctness has reached every facet of this society,” one reader wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “That’s just how far backwards this country has gone.”
“A threat of judicial action was needed to allow children to tour an Army facility because of their beliefs,” wrote another reader. “People need to wake up and see what’s going on. There is more and more discrimination against Christians.
The lesson is that when your constitutional rights are violated, you have an obligation to speak up. That’s what a good American does. That’s what a good Christian does. And that’s what a good Trailman does.