ACLU TARGETS BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA IN CHICAGO
Source: American Civil Liberties Union Newsfeed. 1997-APR-10
"ACLU Challenges Chicago Scouting Programs That Require Belief in God"
The ACLU Press Release
CHICAGO -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois today filed suit
in federal court challenging the City of Chicago's operation of scout troops
affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America.
According to the suit filed in U.S. District Court, the City's policy
excludes participants from City-operated scouting programs based on religious
belief and sexual orientation. The suit also alleges that the City has
adopted formal written policies that require youth members and adult
volunteers in City scouting programs to make religious affirmations and
participate in religious activities.
"Scouting makes many valuable contributions to the community," said Harvy
Grossman, ACLU of Illinois Legal Director. "However, the City cannot put its
stamp of approval on discrimination. We hope that the City will continue
offering youth programs, but without these unnecessary and discriminatory
The suit, Winkler v. City of Chicago, was filed on behalf of Eugene Winkler
and Kevin Poloncarz.
Winkler is a Methodist minister who objects to the City's endorsement of
religion. Poloncarz is a gay agnostic who wished to volunteer as an adult
leader in one of the City's scouting program. He objects to the exclusion of
homosexuals from the City's scouting programs as well as the requirement that
participants make a pledge that acknowledges God.
"The City of Chicago should not be in the business of discriminating," said
Roger Leishman, Director of the ACLU of Illinois Gay & Lesbian Rights
Project. "Regardless of the policies chosen by the Boy Scouts, the City
cannot adopt discriminatory policies in City programs."
The City owns and operates over 25 Explorer Posts, Boy Scout Troops and Cub
Packs. As a condition of receiving authority from the Boy Scouts to operate
these programs, the City certifies that all adult volunteer leaders subscribe
to the Boy Scouts' "Declaration of Religious Principle." Youth wishing to
participate in city scouting programs must also sign a code that they believe
in God and promise to be faithful to the Boy Scouts' religious duties.
Members are also required to register with the Boy Scouts of America.
Although these scouting programs are affiliated with the Boy Scouts of
America, they are operated by the City. The City is solely responsible for
selecting youth members and adult volunteer leaders. It is also solely
responsible for the content of the program.
The ACLU is asking that the Court order the City to stop excluding
participants from City-sponsored scouting programs based on religious beliefs
and sexual orientation, and to stop including a religious element in the
"The City of Chicago must embrace all of its citizens, regardless of their
religious beliefs or sexual orientation," Grossman concluded.
Background [by the OCRT]
Boy Scouts of America is looked upon by many people as a character building group open to
all boys of good character. However, it is in actuality a private organization that promotes
the Judeo-Christian faiths. In some areas of North America, the Boy Scouts exclude as members
youth who follow Hindu, Neopagan and Unitarian faiths. We also suspect that they exclude
Buddhists, because of their atheistic beliefs. There appears to be no national policy on
religious exclusion. The local "scouting councils" appear to establish policy in this area.