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Boy Scouts of America

Court cases: 1999-DEC - now

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bullet 1999-DEC: Davis CA: The school board decided to no longer allow the BSA to use school bulletin boards, newsletters or student folders in its recruitment drives. The school board based this decision on the BSA's denial of membership to gays, atheists and others. Scouting executive Doug McDonald of the Golden Empire Chapter of BSA commented: "I really don't want to stir up a lot of anti-Scouting feeling by telling the superintendent of schools that he wrong. But we'll continue to emphasize our traditional family values, and we'll just go into a different mode of recruitment."
bullet 1999-DEC - New Jersey court case (cont'd): The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce about 2000-JAN-10 whether it will hear the Dale case. If it does, then oral arguments could be timed for 2000-APR. Richard Land, head of the Ethics & Religious
Liberty Committee
of the Southern Baptist Convention commented: "This is a case the Boy Scouts must win. But even if they don't ...those of us against the gay agenda are not going away. Private organizations with a moral viewpoint must retain the right to select their own leaders.  If a government entity is allowed to impose on such organizations who or who may not be their leaders, what will stop them from doing the same to religious organizations?" [The answer, of course, is that the BSA was recognized as a public accommodation, and thus must obey civil rights legislation. Religious congregations are private organizations, some of which have a long history of discriminating on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or any other basis.]
bullet 2000-JAN - New Jersey court case (cont'd): The U.S. Supreme Court announced on JAN-16 that it will hear the appeal of the Dale case.
bullet 2000-APR-26: The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Dale case. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Federation of Teachers, Anti-Defamation League, California Women's Law Center, Center for Women Policy Studies, Equal Rights Advocates, Human Rights Campaign, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., National Asian Pacific Legal Consortium, National Council of Jewish Women, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Women's Law Center, Northwest Women's Law Center, People For the American Way Foundation, Women Employed, Women's Law Project and People for the American Way have filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Dale. Matthew Coles, Director of the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project commented: "This brief makes an incredibly profound statement – not simply in its content, but in its source. Every leading civil rights and First Amendment group in the country has come forward, together, telling the Supreme Court that preventing the Boy Scouts from discriminating is not only constitutional, but is in line with the core American value of judging people on the basis of capability, not on stereotypes." The brief says that the Boy Scouts "has no more right to discriminate in violation of state law than the Rotary Club or Jaycees. Like those other organizations, whose earlier efforts to evade the civil rights laws were soundly rejected by this Court, the exclusionary anti-gay membership policy that the Boy Scouts now so vigorously defends falls outside the scope of any associational or expressive freedom protected by the First Amendment." 1

Many conservative Judeo-Christian groups have filed briefs in opposition: National Catholic Committee on Scouting, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, General Commission on United Methodist Men of the United Methodist Church, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the National Council of Young Israel. 2
bullet 2000-APR-28: According to ReligionToday: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "would withdraw from Scouting if it were compelled to accept openly homosexual Scout leaders," attorney Von G. Keetch said..."The Scouting movement as now constituted will cease to exist," the brief said. There are about 424,000 Methodist Scouts, 424,000 Mormon Scouts and 255,000 Roman Catholic Scouts in the U.S. 
bullet 2000-MAR-2: EWTN, a Roman Catholic religious news source stated that a number of religious groups support equal rights for gays in in the Boy Scouts. They are: the Unitarian Universalist Association, the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ Board for Homeland Ministries, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, New Jersey. Richard Land, director of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said that the "the assertion that the state has a 'compelling interest' in protecting the civil rights of those whose sexual preference is homosexual to the exclusion of the constitutional rights of free expression of another's religious convictions ... is almost beyond belief."
bullet 2000-JUN-28 New Jersey court case (concluded): The U.S. Supreme Court, in a close 5 - 4 decision, overturned the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that the Boy Scouts was a public accommodation. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the BSA is a private organization and thus may set its own moral code, and exclude whomever it wishes. Forcing it to accept gays would violate its constitutional right to freedom of association. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the majority. He said in part: "The Boy Scouts asserts that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values it seeks to instill. [Requiring the Scouts to accept homosexual scoutmasters] would significantly burden the organization's right to oppose or disfavor homosexual conduct." He did acknowledge that homosexuality had gained greater social acceptance. However, he wrote that "This is scarcely an argument for denying First Amendment protection to those who refuse to accept these views. The First Amendment protects expression, be it of the popular variety or not." More details
bullet 2002-APR-1: MD: Allegations of discrimination by school board: The Montgomery County Public School district had traditionally charged about $3.00 an hour to non-profit agencies for the use of their facilities. However, they had donated the use of their rooms to the Boy Scouts, 4-H clubs, Girl Scouts etc. without charge. They recently reviewed their charging policies and decided that all groups should be treated equally. This meant that the Boy Scouts and similar groups should not be given preferential treatment; they would have to pay the same nominal charge as do all other non-profit agencies. The federal Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating this decision.

Myra Coleman, of the Department of Education, wrote: "Under the (No Child Left Behind) act, these entities may not deny equal access or a fair opportunity to meet, or otherwise discriminate against, any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, or any other youth group listed in title 36 of the United States Code."

The Public Advocate of the United States, a conservative nonprofit group based in Falls Church, Va., filed a complaint against the school district, charging that the latter had violated the "Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act."  Eugene Delgaudio, Executive Director of Public Advocate said: "Montgomery County officials have been given repeated chances to obey federal statute and reverse these fees to punish the Boy Scouts of America because of their moral virtues. Now that the federal government is investigating these abuses, hopefully the county will no longer ignore the law of the land."

The Interagency Coordinating Board for the Use of Public Facilities administers the rental of school rooms to outside groups. Referring to the BSA, Ginny Gong, board director, said: "Why should any one group be treated differently from all of our other non-profit organizations? They, along with the other worthy organizations, should be paying the same non-profit rate. We are talking about three dollars an hour. The decision was not just for Boy Scouts, it was for all scouting groups. We are talking about 4-H, Girl Scouts, and all of these groups are impacted. It is the interest of this board to make sure that we are not discriminating against any group. Therefore, in the interest of equity and fair treatment of all non-profit organizations -- and we have a lot of non-profits using our facilities -- the board made the decision to charge the Scouts, like all the other groups, a reduced non-profit rate. This was so that every group would be treated fairly." 3
bullet 2006-OCT: CA: U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear case: Berkeley, CA, had allowed non-profit organizations to berth their boats without charge at the municipal marina since the 1930s. In 1997, the city restricted the free use of the marina to groups that did not discriminate against women and/or minorities. In 1998, they revoked a subsidy previously given to the Sea Scouts -- a branch of the Boy Scouts. City officials informed the Berkeley Sea Scouts that their $1,500 a month subsidy for their three boats would be restored if it broke ties with the Boy Scouts or disavowed the policy against gays and Atheists. The Sea Scouts refused and launched a court case -- Evans v. City of Berkeley, 06-40. A lower court ruled that the city could treat the Sea Scouts differently from other non-profits because of the Scouts' membership policies. In 2006-MAR, the California Supreme Court let the decision stand. They determined that municipal governments are under no obligation to extend benefits to organizations that discriminate. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. 4

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Related essays on this site:

bullet Boy Scouts of America
bullet The U.S. Supreme Court decision and its aftermath
bullet Homosexuality and bisexuality
bullet Different religions, different beliefs

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  1. The brief in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale is available at:
  2. "Major church groups threaten Boy Scout walkout," EWTN, at:
  3. "Feds to Investigate Possible Discrimination of Boy Scouts,", at:
  4. Mark Sherman, "Boy Scouts face setback in Supreme Court," Associated Press, 2006-OCT-16, at:

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Site navigation: Home page > Religious intolerance > Boy Scouts > here

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Copyright 1999 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 
Originally published on 1999-AUG-9. 
Latest updated: 2006-OCT-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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