Conservatives in the media launched verbal attacks on the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) following the Defense Department's announcement that it will warn military bases not to sponsor Boy Scout troops -- a warning required in partial settlement of a lawsuit the ACLU filed in 1999. Conservative columnist Joseph Farah, U.S. Representative and substitute MSNBC host John D. "J.D." Hayworth (R-AZ), and FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly claimed, respectively, that the civil liberties organization is "in league with the Devil," has "declare[d] war on the Boy Scouts," and is engaged in a "vendetta" against the youth organization.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed the suit, claiming that military sponsorship of Boy Scout troops violates the First Amendment prohibition on state establishment of religion, as members are required to recite an oath to God. The suit did not list Boy Scouts of America as a defendant. The partial settlement of the ongoing suit was announced on November 15, when the Defense Department agreed to warn military bases against sponsoring scout troops. A November 16 Miami Herald article (login required) reported:
The Pentagon has agreed to warn military bases worldwide that they should not directly sponsor Boy Scout troops, partially resolving claims that the government has improperly supported a group that requires members to believe in God.
The Pentagon said it long has had a rule against sponsorship of nonfederal organizations and denied the rule had been violated. But it agreed to alert posts worldwide, warning them not to sponsor Boy Scout troops or other such groups. The rule does not prevent service members from leading Scout troops unofficially on their own time.
In response to this settlement, Farah -- founder, editor, and CEO of the right-wing website WorldNetDaily.com -- wrote of the ACLU in his November 17 "Between the Lines" column:
The ACLU is never going to change. It is an anti-American organization. It is a group that seeks to destroy all that makes America a unique experiment in freedom. It is an organization in league with all of America's enemies. It is an organization that hates God, hates what is right, decent and morally upright. It is an organization in league with the Devil, as far as I am concerned.
And the ACLU is an organization that needs to be isolated, exposed for what it is, recognized for what it is and destroyed if necessary.
Hayworth, who has served as a substitute host for former U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough (R-FL) on MSNBC's Scarborough Country, claimed that the ACLU is at war with the Boy Scouts. During a November 16 appearance on FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, Hayworth said: "So in the world of the ACLU, it's OK to defend the North American Man-Boy Love Association and declare war on the Boy Scouts of America?"
O'Reilly alleged that the ACLU is engaged in a "vendetta" against the Boy Scouts because they failed to change the youth organization's policy of discrimination against homosexuals.
From the November 16 edition of FOX News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor:
The harm to these children is immeasurable because they can't get the money. San Diego threw them off the land. And it's a vendetta by the ACLU because of the gay thing. And you know it is.
In saying "San Diego threw them off the land," O'Reilly was apparently referring to the January settlement of a separate lawsuit, in which the city of San Diego cancelled the lease on 18 acres of city-owned land used by the Boy Scouts as a regional office and camp.
A November 16 Chicago Tribune article refuted O'Reilly's assertion that children are suffering "immeasurable" harm because "they can't get the money" for sponsorship. The Tribune reported:
Gregg Shields, a national spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, said he didn't expect the settlement to hurt the group. In the U.S., military units sponsored about 420 of the approximately 120,000 Scout troops nationwide, Shields said. Shields said he expected Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters or other local community groups to pick up the charters for those Scout troops.
As MMFA has previously noted, O'Reilly has referred to the ACLU as a "fascist organization"; compared the ACLU to Al Qaeda; and asserted that the ACLU is "the most dangerous organization in the United States of America right now."