Wednesday, October 18, 2006

SCOTUS refuses to hear Boy Scout discrimination case

Here's a story on the Supreme Court's decision not to hear a case involving a local government’s refusal to allow the Boy Scouts free use of public property because of the Scouts policy of refusing membership to homosexuals and atheists.

Six years after the Supreme Court ruled the Boy Scouts could ban gay leaders, the group is fighting and losing legal battles with state and local governments over its discriminatory policies.

The latest setback came Monday when the high court without comment refused to take a case out of Berkeley, Calif., in which a Scouts sailing group lost free use of a public marina because the Boy Scouts bar atheists and gays.

The action let stand a unanimous California Supreme Court ruling that the city of Berkeley may treat the Berkeley Sea Scouts differently from other nonprofit organizations because of the Scouts' membership policies.

Two years ago, the court similarly rejected a Boy Scouts appeal of a case from Connecticut, where officials dropped the group from a list of charities that receive donations from state employees through a payroll deduction plan.

And in Philadelphia, the city is threatening to evict a Boy Scout council from the group's publicly owned headquarters or make the group pay rent unless it changes its policy on gays. [By MARK SHERMAN The Associated Press]
I agree with the various local government's refusing to subsidize the Boy Scouts and with the Supreme Court's decision to not hear the Berkeley case. The Scouts claim a right to free association and that is their proper right. The Scouts do not have the right to demand that I and other taxpayers subsidize them for it. As the California Supreme Court noted in the Berkley case (Evans v. Berkeley 38 Cal. 4th 1):

"[A] government entity may constitutionally require a recipient of funding or subsidy to provide written, unambiguous assurances of compliance with a generally applicable nondiscrimination policy. We further agree Berkeley reasonably concluded the Sea Scouts did not and could not provide satisfactory assurances because of their required adherence to BSA's discriminatory policies."
This is true, and it will be refreshing when we can expand this logic to government-supported institutions that discriminate via affirmative action.

Ultimately, while the proper position would be to prohibit government from sponsoring or subsidizing any group outside of its legitimate rights-protecting mission, in the interim, government must not be allowed to support any private organization with patently discriminatory polices. The Scouts' ban on atheists and gays is their own private choice, and it has no place being supported in the public realm.

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