Conservatives Charge ACLU 'Has No Moral Compass'

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - The American Civil Liberties Union Friday came under attack for challenging a Virginia law that prohibits juveniles from walking around naked at nudist camps without the presence of a parent or guardian.

That case is pending, but the ACLU also attracted attention this week for settling a lawsuit against the Pentagon, the conditions of which mean that U.S. military bases will no longer be able to publicly sponsor Boy Scout troops.

Juxtaposed, the two cases show that the ACLU "has no moral compass," according to the conservative legal group, Liberty Counsel.

The ACLU "is trying to shut down the Scouts with one hand and with the other argue that juvenile boys have the right to cavort nude in public parks," stated Matthew Staver, president and general counsel of the Liberty Counsel. The ACLU earlier this year sued the Commonwealth of Virginia for a new law prohibiting hotels and campgrounds from allowing juveniles to be nude without the presence of a parent or guardian.

"Honoring God and pledging to remain pure are pretty good foundational values," Staver said of the Boy Scouts. "Defending juvenile boys who want to cavort nude in a public park is ludicrous."

Representatives from the Virginia chapter of the ACLU did not return calls requesting comment for this report, but in a statement, executive director Kent Willis called the Virginia law "uninformed" and said it "violates the constitutional rights of privacy and association, and the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children."

He said the nudist camps are "by all accounts a wholesome, carefully controlled, parent-approved activity for young people in Virginia."

Lindsey Martin, an attorney for the Liberty Counsel, said the group isn't trying to make a statement about whether the ACLU should fight the Virginia law. "We're just pointing out who they choose to defend and which causes they choose to champion," she told . She said the Liberty Counsel "wanted to juxtapose the positions that they take."

The Virginia law does not specify whether the nudist camp restrictions are limited to public properties or whether they also apply to private properties. However, all such camps are required to obtain a state-issued permit. The new law, which went into effect in July, denies that permit to any groups that allow juveniles to attend without a parent or guardian present.

Conservatives were outraged earlier this week when it was announced that the Pentagon had settled a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, agreeing to prohibit its military bases from publicly sponsoring Boy Scout functions. The settlement does not affect members of the military who on their own time choose to be involved with the Scouts.

Adam Schwartz of the Illinois ACLU said the American military has sponsored hundreds of Boy Scout units across the country and that the Pentagon had singled out the Boy Scouts of America and the national Boy Scout Jamboree for a $2 million federal expenditure.

As a result, religious liberty was being endangered, Schwartz said. "If our Constitution's promise of religious liberty is to be a reality, the government should not be administering religious oaths or discriminating based upon religious beliefs," Schwartz stated. The Boy Scouts exclude homosexuals from the ranks of their leadership, a policy that was validated several years ago in a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, said the Pentagon's decision to settle the ACLU lawsuit could harm the efforts to someday recruit young men for the military who are now in the Boy Scouts.