Scouts, Scouters: No campaigning in uniform!

Scouts and Scouters know the rules:  No political campaigning in uniform.  It’s such a hard-and-fast rule that even Boy Scouts helping with voter registration or simultaneous food drives sometimes get calls from the local Council to be sure there is no partisan political campaigning going on.

Scouts may be asked to present the colors, the flags of the U.S. and the state, and to lead a political convention in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Diligent Scouters, or Scouts, involved in such ceremonies, will retire to remove their uniforms before continuing to participate in the political part of the activities.

Photos of Scouts used by presidential campaigns is among those things prohibited.

So this photo is disturbing.  You can see two people in Scout uniforms — one obviously an adult — at a political rally where their placement suggests the campaign officials tried to get them into news and publicity photos.  Oddly for real Scouters, there are few insignia of any kind on the uniforms — on the sleeves or pockets — other than what comes with the shirt right out of the box (World Scouting emblem perhaps excepted) — though you can see the edge of an adult leader’s patch on the adult’s left arm.  Were these real Scouters flouting the rules, or faux Scouters, actors hired by the campaign to flaunt the uniform, contrary to the rules?

The Scouts in the background -- are they complying with Scout policies that require no politicking in Scout uniform?  (photo from Andrew Sullivans blog)

The Scouts in the background -- are they complying with Scout policies that require no politicking in Scout uniform? (photo from Andrew Sullivan's blog)

Below the fold:  The rule, as listed on Grand Teton Council’s website.

From the website of Grand Teton Council (August 31, 2008):

Since we are in a presidential election year, it is a good time to restate the BSA’s long-standing policy regarding the participation of Scouts in political rallies and other political events.

Uniformed unit members and leaders may participate in flag ceremonies at political events and may lead the Pledge of Allegiance; however, they should retire after the ceremony and not remain on the speakers’ platform or in a conspicuous location where television viewers could construe their presence as an endorsement or symbol of support. In addition, photos of candidates or Scouts in uniform or BSA marks and logos are not allowed in political campaign materials of any kind.

Volunteers and professionals must be alert to situations that would imply that the BSA favors one candidate over another. Strict observance of our long-standing policy against the active participation of uniformed Scouts and leaders in political events is mandatory.

Other notes and resources:

12 Responses to Scouts, Scouters: No campaigning in uniform!

  1. […] promote the meeting as a political point.  Scouting prefers not to be a political football, and Scouting policy asks that Scouts avoid even looking like politicking while in uniform. (Scouts are encouraged to participate in the political process, including through the three […]


  2. Eric in Oklahoma says:

    From Jim Nolan, scout executive with the Tecumseh (OH) Council: “The Scouts were supposed to do a color guard ceremony before Senator McCain took the stage. The leaders were informed of the BSA policy ahead of time. We will have to be more careful in the future.” (8/29/08).

    BSA uniform policy: “Scout uniforms shall not be worn to political events or rallies, protests or demonstrations where its appearance could reasonably be used to imply BSA support for a particular political cause or candidate.”


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Yes, military people should have to change out of uniform — that’s the law, by the way.

    We learned that having a civilian head of the military helps keep the peace, rather than having the military run the civilian government. That little bit of separation-of-powers is the model for good government worldwide.

    Scouts worry about their brand, wisely. Scout rules are quite clear: Scouts may participate in honoring the flag at a political rally, but are not to be in uniform at the rest of the political rally. I believe those rules date back to Coolidge, but I could be wrong (Coolidge was an avid Scouter, by the way, and both of his sons were Scouts; they held the first Scout meetings in the White House).

    Wearing a uniform implies endorsement of the organization that provides the uniform. I’d be pleased to wear my Scout uniform to every Democratic event and stand behind Barack Obama with it at every campaign appearance, if it’s allowed.


  4. orphanedhanyou says:

    i think its ridiculous. should military officials have to change their clothes? its the Americans peoples fault if they votes for someone because of supposedly positive affiliations. besides people are gonna vote McCain just because Palins a woman. and others will vote Obama just because they finally want a black president. should we not show the candidates gender or race or age or anything the public might relate too? NO. if people are stupid enough to vote for someone just cause they see a scout in the crowd they’ll vote for that person for other stupid reasons too.

    not to mention the discrimination against the scout members. should we restrict casual wear or formal wear at political rallies? they are American citizens and should wear whatever they like to any event as long as its appropriate. and i have never heard of a uniform ever being inappropriate.


  5. Ed Darrell says:

    I doubt the Scouts intended to violate the policy, but it’s a clear sign that the campaigns will take advantage of Scouts if they can.


  6. Andrew says:

    I can find an event patch in

    Still, the positioning seems very suspicious. It’s a pretty gross violation of BSA policy.


  7. Ed Darrell says:

    I can’t find any serious news article about Cub Scouts being attacked. Powerline refers to Jim Hoft; Hoft cites Powerline. Nothing close has come up on Google News yet.

    When is it you allege Scouts were booed at the DNC? Years ago, there was an incident. It was within a short time after the Supreme Court ruled the Scouts could discriminate willy-nilly — and it was just a few people, clearly targeted protest not against the Scouts, but the policy of the National Council.

    Got details on either one?

    Here’s my experience: Democrats are much better at presenting colors and reciting the pledge. Democrats are also much better at honoring veterans and people currently under arms — often because Democratic officeholders are overseas.


  8. Alan says:

    mpb, thanks for the update. I was being a little over the top on my comments. However, Scouts are the role model for tomorrow and eating at McDonald’s is part of real life. :)

    Here is an update. Cub Scouts (2nd & 3rd Graders) were physically attacked en route to the RNC to present the colors. This is in light of the DNC Attendees booing Eagles Scouts on stage at the DNC presenting the colors.

    Something is wrong here and maybe the true article is more about even having the Scouts help the Community. It is sad…
    FYI: The article on the assault against grade school children is all over the web today. On Power Line, too.


  9. mpb says:

    Alan– that is the First Dude of Alaska (Todd Palin) and often ex officio (un-elected) member of the executive office (his emails regarding gubernatorial actions are evidently designated as privileged information)


  10. Ed Darrell says:

    You’re not a Scouter, I see, Christopher. Here, go get get some good information:
    Legacy of Honor, by Alvin Townley (a second volume is coming soon)
    Scout’s Honor: A father’s unlikely foray into the woods, by Peter Applebome

    Your life is affected for the better by Scouting, whether it’s the fact that you have an IBM-based PC on your desk (Bill Gates was a Life Scout, his father is an Eagle), whether you think science is cool and follow NASA (11 of the 12 humans who set foot on the Moon were Scouts; Armstrong, the first, and Schmitt, the last, are Eagles, as is James Lovell, the hero of the movie, “Apollo 13”) or if merely drive a car (many of the scientists and activists who gave us the Clean Air Act were Scouts; the chairman of Exxon Mobil is an Eagle). George Alpher, the guy who figured out the Big Bang, was an Eagle. Stephen Spielberg is an Eagle. Bill Bradley is an Eagle.

    None of those people fit your small and crabby description of what you think Scouting is. Check into it. You’ll be happily surprised.


  11. Christopher Wing says:

    I’m with the scouts – gays are immoral. God hates them. So are atheists. May they burn in hell.

    Seriously – why even worry about this organization that prepares young men to go and die needlessly in Iraq? They’ve proved time and time again to be a group of bigots and hate-mongers.

    The scouts teach hatred to children, disguised as a faux military organization. Reminds me of the Hitler Youth.


  12. Alan says:

    I totally agree that Boy Scouts have to avoid these situation extra hard.

    I was at a McDonald’s and saw a leader in uniform and what a bad role model for young kids. Although it is tough to have so many after school programs and having to change from Coach Uniform to Scout Uniform and so forth.

    I have actually seen a Scout Leader change his shirt right after doing a flag ceremony in order to prevent any further affiliation to the event.

    Regarding the picture I am not sure who the gentlemen is that is in front of him. However, it can be taken as an endorsement of that candidate for office by the Boy Scouts so I would say it does violate the rules.

    Usually when leading the Pledge the Scouts are in front of the candidates to avoid the appearance as this picture does that the Boys Scouts are directly affiliated.

    Interesting find.


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