The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to consider Connecticut’s decision to remove the Boy Scouts from a state program because the organization does not allow avowed homosexuals.
Connecticut excluded the Boy Scouts from a state charitable campaign in which the organization had participated for more than 30 years. It allows about 900 private groups to receive donations through voluntary payroll deductions from state employees.
But state officials denied the Boy Scouts access to the program claiming the group violates state non-discrimination laws by excluding avowed homosexuals from positions of leadership. However, homosexual activist organizations, such as the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, are allowed to participate.
Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Evan Wolfson has said, “As long as the Boy Scouts’ leaders are insisting on an exclusionary membership policy, the rest of us, especially public schools, parents, and donors, are going to dissociate ourselves from discrimination against our kids.”
The Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center contends the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals erred in its decision to uphold Connecticut’s exclusion of the Scouts, noting a June 2000 opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court holding the Scouts had a First Amendment right of expressive association to exclude homosexuals from its membership.
“It is unconstitutional to force an organization to forego its basic values, beliefs and practices as a condition for the receipt of a government benefit,” said Robert Muise, associate counsel for the Law Center. “This decision, which permits the government to punish an organization based on its opposition to homosexuality, not only harms the Boy Scouts, but it also threatens the constitutional rights of other individuals and organizations who object to homosexuality on the basis of their religious beliefs.”
The U.S. Supreme Court decision, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, held the youth organization had a constitutionally based right to discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation.” James Dale was an Eagle Scout whose adult membership in the Boy Scouts was revoked when the organization learned that he was an avowed homosexual and homosexual-rights activist.
Eagle Scout James Dale with parents in 1988 (Photo courtesy Dale family)
Last year, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Connecticut’s decision to remove the Scouts from the state program after the Dale decision in 2000. The 2nd Circuit recognized the Scouts’ policies were “constitutionally protected” under the Dale ruling, but backed Connecticut because the state did not “require” the Boy Scouts to change its views,
Instead, the court said, the state merely required the Boy Scouts to “pay a price” for “exercising its First Amendment rights.”
The Law Center says if the 2nd Circuit’s decision is allowed to stand, it will harm many faith-based organizations.
“The Second Circuit’s opinion threatens not only the First Amendment right to expressive association, but also the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion,” the group’s brief says.
A friend-of-the-court brief also has been prepared by the attorney general of Virginia and includes signatures of the attorneys general of Utah, Idaho, South Dakota and Alabama.
Richard Thompson, the Law Center’s president and chief counsel, charged Connecticut is “pandering to the homosexual agenda by punishing the Scouts for exercising their constitutional rights.”
“Permitting this decision to stand would in effect allow governments to legally extort organizations and individuals to give up basic beliefs,” he said.