Drinking at International Events
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Tue, 4 Jul 1995 09:40:43 -0400
Let me caution you about thinking that because an act takes place on
foreign soil that it is beyond the reach of the law in this Country. As
the result of treaties and numerous court decisions, it is fairly clear
that there are many situations where the long arm of the law reaches to
acts tht take place outside the U.S.
You have to be careful to distinguish between laws before making a
generalization. Of course France would be rightly upset at the
usurpation of sovereignty, if one of our Courts decided to try a case
involving a case where a French law was violated. But apparently that is
not the case here. At issue was whether a school could enforce a pledge
made by a student here in Virginia. This was a contract in simple terms
between the student and school; e.g. the Student promises not to drink,
etc., in return for being allowed to go on the trip. The contract was
made here. The parties reside here. That's all that is need to make it
enforceable here. Likewise when you participate in Scouting you by
registering are obligated to abide by its rules or not participate.
The Boy Scouts of America is fairly clear on this subject:
"It is the policy of the Boy Scouts of America that the use of alcoholic
beverages and controlled substances is not permitted at encampments or
activities on property owned and/or operated by the Boy Scouts of
America, or at any activity involving participation of youth members."
BSA, Health and Safety Guide, 1993 at p.11 (repeated in Guide to Safe
This includes trips to locations outside the borders of the United States.
Before being too cavalier in this area bear in mind that this rule
creates an absolute standard of care that is required of you. If a youth
in your charge on a trip is permitted to drink alcoholic beverages and
comes to any grief, I'm afraid you are likely to be found to be per se
negligent, leaving the lawyers to haggle over the amount of damages. I
would also suggest that you shouldn't expect to be bailed out by BSA,
because you will have acted outside BSA by so doing.
I've been overseas too. I understand the difference in culture and
problems with water - saw people get deathly ill from bacteria in water
in Italy until they adjusted. The solution is to ask for reliable
bottled water or soft drinks. My hosts were always understanding and
none took offense. They may have though of me as a crazy American, but
extended kindness anyway.
As to a leader drinking with other leaders - if it is an adult meeting
not associated with a youth event, BSA doesn't prohibit it. Be aware
that the beer tent at a jamboree that is off limits to youth is not
separate from the youth event - I'm talking about an adults only event
like a conference. Even here I'd be hesitant to drink in uniform because
I would be representing BSA.
As to drinking in uniform on the airplane. I agree with Mike Walton.
The public perception will be of a Scout Leader drinking (getting drunk)
and they will know (even if its not true) that you have Scouts somewhere
on the plane (luggage compartment? :-) )
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
DDC-Training, GW Dist. Nat Capital Area Council mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City