Discrimination Against Sexual Minorities In Scouting


  1. Judge a Scout on His Actions
    Los Angeles Times

  2. The California Supreme Court Rules The Boy Scouts Are Not Covered By California Civil Rights Laws and Can Exclude Gays, Agnostics and Atheists.

  3. California Court Backs Boy Scouts’ Ban

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1. Judge a Scout on His Actions
LOS ANGELES TIMES, August 6, 1999

For nearly nine decades, the Boy Scouts of America has instilled in youngsters 11 to 17 some of the qualities that society values most: trustworthiness, loyalty, friendliness, bravery, concern for others. By the group’s own standards, James Dale, now 29, was a model Boy Scout, earning a chest full of merit badges and becoming an assistant scoutmaster. But the organization expelled him nine years ago when it found out he is homosexual. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Dale’s expulsion was illegal.

We would add it was wrong. The Scout leadership changed its judgment of Dale based on his sexual orientation, not because he became less brave, honorable, considerate or loyal.

Here is the oath 87 million American boys have taken over the years: "On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight." Dale took that pledge, earned 30 merit badges and became an Eagle Scout. After he became an assistant scoutmaster, there was no accusation that he did anything to promote homosexuality or in any way compromise the values fostered by the Boy Scouts. He was thrown out for what he was, not for what he did. With no dispute on that point, the Scouts sought legal shelter in the argument that it is a private group that does not have to comply with laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. The New Jersey court did not buy the argument.

The Boy Scouts is a congressionally chartered group–as is the Girl Scouts–that has earned a special status in American life for public service, from flood relief to war bond drives. The 1916 charter entitles the organization to "make and adopt bylaws, rules, and regulations not inconsistent with the laws of the United States of America, or any state thereof." Yet lawyers argued that the Scouts could discriminate against gays under private-association laws that could also be used against racial or ethnic minorities. Surely this is not what Scouting, whose image has come to be one of inclusion and diversity, wishes to convey.

Thinly veiled in the Scouts’ attempts to fight this ruling–officials say they will take it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court–is an unfounded fear that homosexual Scout leaders would prey on children. There simply is no evidence that homosexuals are any more likely to molest children than heterosexuals, be they Scout leaders, camp counselors or teachers.

The Boy Scouts of America is an organization dedicated to doing what is right and honorable. It is time for the Scouts to acknowledge that it is a member’s deeds, not who he is, that bring honor upon himself and the organization.

Los Angeles Times
Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA, 90053
Fax 213-237-7679
E-MAIL: letters@latimes.com

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SAN FRANCISCO – March 23, 1998

The California Supreme Court ruled today the Boy Scouts are not covered by California civil rights laws and can exclude gays, agnostics and atheists.

In a pair of unanimous decisions, the court said the Scouts are free, like any private club, to set their own membership policies because they are not a business.

The rulings upheld a decision by a Contra Costa County Scout organization in 1981 to reject an 18-year-old former Eagle Scout as an assistant scoutmaster after learning he was homosexual. Also affected were 9-year-old twin brothers who were barred by an Orange County Cub Scout den in 1990 after they refused to declare a belief in God.

TJ Walker, an Eagle Scout and spokesman for Americans for Religious Liberty, responded:

"The Boy Scouts of America should do a ‘good turn daily’ by ending their discriminatory ways. How can a Boy Scout claim to ‘Be Prepared’ if he doesn’t know how to get along with people of differing beliefs and practices? The California State Supreme Court failed to take into consideration how much the Boy Scouts are accommodated by public tax dollars and public institutions. Why should the Boy Scouts be given the quasi-public status that allows them to recruit in public schools, work with public police departments, meet in public buildings, and receive extra compensation benefits in the armed forces, yet systematically thumb their noses at American principles of fair play?"

Americans for Religious Liberty, founded in 1982, is a public interest educational organization devoted to preserving the American tradition of religious, intellectual, and personal freedom. The organization has published 22 books on religious liberty and is a frequent resource to journalists researching church/state issues. ARL has 5000 members from all 50 states.

Call 212-961-1468 to interview TJ Walker or book him as a talk show guest.

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The Boy Scouts are not covered by California civil rights laws and can exclude gays, agnostics and atheists, the state Supreme Court ruled today.

In a pair of unanimous decisions, the court said the Scouts are not a business and therefore are free, like any private club, to set their own membership policies.

One ruling upheld a decision by a Contra Costa County Scout organization in 1981 to reject Timothy Curran, an 18-year-old former Eagle Scout, as an assistant scoutmaster after he disclosed in an interview that he was gay.

The other ruling involved 9-year-old twin brothers, Michael and William Randall, who were barred by an Orange County Cub Scout den in 1990 after they refused to declare a belief in God.

The twins were allowed into the Scouts by lower-court rulings and recently qualified to become Eagle Scouts, Scouting’s highest honor, subject to approval by the national organization. They and their father, James G. Randall, who is also their lawyer, say the boys are agnostics who haven’t yet worked out their religious beliefs.

Both suits were brought under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination by business establishments on various grounds, including sexual orientation and religion.

The justices said today that the Boy Scouts are a private, selective organization, not a business.

"Scouts meet regularly in small groups (often in private homes) that are intended to foster close friendship, trust and loyalty," said the lead opinion by Chief Justice Ronald George.

"The Boy Scouts is an expressive social organization whose primary function is the inculcation of values in its youth members."

Although the Scouts sell goods to members of the public, George said, "nonmembers cannot purchase entry to pack or troop meetings, overnight hikes, the national jamboree or any portion of the Boy Scouts’ extended training and educational process."

Greg Shields, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, said the organization was pleased the court recognized it as a "voluntary association," not a business.

"For 88 years, we’ve taught the moral values of the Scout oath and law to American boys," he said. "Those who meet the standards of this membership organization are welcome to belong."

The ruling contrasts with a decision March 2 by an appellate court in New Jersey that said the Boy Scouts and their local councils were "places of accommodation" with open membership and were covered by the state’s civil rights law. That ruling, in favor of a gay scoutmaster, was the first by any appellate court in the nation against the Scouts’ anti-gay policy.

The Boy Scouts say homosexuality violates their concept of traditional moral values, embodied in a provision of the Scout oath in which members pledge to be "morally straight."

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