Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice
(202) 514-2008
TDD (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON, D.C. - The parties to a case challenging the federal government's longstanding support for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have voluntarily settled the claim challenging the "sponsorships" of Boy Scout organizations by the Department of Defense, the Justice Department announced today. The settlement clarifies that existing DOD policy precludes official sponsorship of private organizations, but that DOD personnel may continue to sponsor such organizations in their personal capacity. The settled claim was one of several challenging a range of support provided by the federal government to the Boy Scouts.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that the Departments of Defense and Housing and Urban Development violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution by spending appropriated funds in support of the Boy Scouts. The settlement has no effect on the challenge to DOD's support-as opposed to sponsorship-of the Boy Scouts or on any of the claims against HUD. In entering into the partial settlement agreement, DOD admitted no wrongdoing and expressly denied that it sponsors BSA organizations and, even if the Department of Defense were to sponsor BSA organizations, that any such sponsorship would violate the Establishment Clause.

The partial settlement agreement merely clarifies the Departmentís pre-existing policy regarding sponsorship of private organizations. Under existing policy, DOD may not, and does not officially sponsor any private, non-federal organizations, including Boy Scout units. This policy prohibits department personnel from sponsoring any private, non-federal organizations in their official capacity. Under the terms of the partial settlement agreement, the Department of Defense will communicate to military bases that, consistent with department policy, they may not sponsor Boy Scout units and department personnel may not sponsor Boy Scout units in an official capacity.

Department personnel may continue to be involved with scouting in their personal capacity. Nothing in the partial settlement agreement is intended to preclude DOD support to the Boy Scouts authorized by DOD policy, to preclude Boy Scout activities on DOD bases and installations, or to preclude DOD personnel in their personal capacity from sponsoring Boy Scout units.

Provided there is no sponsorship by Department of Defense personnel in an official capacity, Boy Scout units are permitted to meet on military bases and military personnel are permitted to remain active in Boy Scout programs. The settlement does not diminish the level of support provided to the Boy Scouts by DOD. The Department of Defense has defended the legality of such support in briefs filed with the district court in this case, and that issue will ultimately be decided by the court in the course of the resolution of the pending motions for summary judgment.

As the federal government argued as a friend of the court in a separate action involving the City of San Diegoís leasing of public land to the Boy Scouts, the government has argued here that the Boy Scouts is not a religious institution, but rather achieves its objectives of developing good character, citizenship, and personal fitness in young boys by focusing on a vigorous program of outdoor activities.