By Mathew Goldstein
I recently became aware that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is still sponsoring Venturing Crew 202 through the Baltimore Area Council of The Boy Scouts of America. The Maryland DNR has been sponsoring this Venturing Crew since 2000. I first heard about this some years ago, and I initially thought the sponsorship may have been short term, but it has proven to be long term. I have been a card carrying member of the ACLU for many years and I faxed a complaint to the Maryland ACLU.
Four days later I called to verify that they received the fax. I described my complaint as being about a state sponsored youth group that discriminates. I was told my complaint was not yet entered on their computers and I was asked to identify the target of the discrimination. After I replied "atheists and agnostics" I was told that it could take months for the ACLU to decide if they would pursue my complaint.
I faxed another copy of the complaint the next week and, this time, when I again called them four days later, I was told they had a record of the complaint. A mere two weeks later I received a letter from the ACLU explaining that their legal staff is small and they provide legal assistance for "a small number of cases each year." They concluded they are "unable to assist" in this matter due to their "limited resources". The Maryland ACLU claims to have "approximately 14,000 members statewide."
Fortunately, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which claims "more than 400" members in Maryland, is willing to assist. They wrote "... we are concerned about the relationship between the Boy Scouts and the DNR. One principal concern we have is that all BSA organizations have to sign an “Annual Charter Agreement.” The general form has the sponsor agree to: “Conducting the Scouting program according to its own policies and guidelines as well as those of the Boy Scouts of America.” The Venturing Oath and Code are also a problem...."
Clearly FFRF understands the problem, and furthermore it appears that the FFRF is more efficient at deploying their limited resources in contexts like this than the ACLU. Assuming that the DNR rejects the complaint and continues sponsoring their no atheists youth group, I would not be surprised if the now reluctant ACLU reverses course and decides they are able to devote some of their resources to this matter once the complaint is scheduled for a hearing before a judge. Meanwhile, if you are one of the 14,000 members of the Maryland ACLU, please consider calling or writing to ask them to reconsider their decision not to pursue the ACLU file number 3470 claim against the Maryland Department of Natural Resources sponsorship of Venturing Crew 202.