A decision by the California Supreme Court that ended a half century of free use of the Berkeley, Calif., marina by the Boy Scouts of America is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Pacific Legal Foundation announced today.
Although Berkeley allows nonprofit groups free use of the city’s marina, it prohibits the Berkeley Sea Scouts from participating in this program, because the Sea Scouts are affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, which officially excludes avowed homosexuals and atheists from being adult leaders of the boys enrolled in the century-old youth organization.
Although Berkeley has never identified a single exclusionary act by the Sea Scouts, it is barring the group from its marina program for nonprofits solely because of their ties with the Boy Scouts.
In March, the California Supreme Court upheld Berkeley’s policy of denying the Sea Scouts access to the berthing program for nonprofits. The Pacific Legal Foundation is representing the skipper of the Berkeley Sea Scout program.
“Berkeley is penalizing the Sea Scouts for exercising their First Amendment right of association in ways that city officials don’t like,” said PLF attorney Harold Johnson, co-counsel in the case. “May government punish you, or fine you, or subject you to second class treatment if you don’t pass a politically correct litmus test? That’s the question raised by this case. It’s a question that deserves to be heard by the United States Supreme Court.”
Starting in the 1930s, Berkeley gave the Sea Scouts free access to berth Scout-owned boats, and the arrangement has continued uninterrupted since then – until now.
“In 1998, the Berkeley City Council demanded that the local Sea Scouts admit homosexuals and atheists as members and leaders, or forswear their ties to the Boy Scouts of America, or lose the $500 per dock subsidy that enabled the Scouts to keep three boats in the marina,” explained WND columnist and Eagle Scout Hans Zeiger.
“Unable to compromise the Scout Oath, the Sea Scouts lost the dock subsidy,” Zeiger added. “And unable to pay the fee, the Sea Scouts have reduced their marina fleet to one boat. The Scouts sued, and now they have lost at the California Supreme Court. It remains an issue of equal access. Two other nonprofit organizations continue to have free berthing at the Berkeley Marina: the Cal Sailing Club and the Berkeley Yacht Club. For holding by character, the Boy Scouts are excluded.”
The Berkeley Sea Scouts is a multi-ethnic group drawing on all economic backgrounds. “Berkeley’s exclusion of the Sea Scouts has imposed financial hardships on the organization,” says the legal group. “The monthly berth fee of more than $500 that the Sea Scouts must pay has led to cutbacks in programs and less financial assistance available for kids from poor families.”
“The bottom line is that Berkeley officials are punishing the kids that participate in the Sea Scouts to make a political statement, and that’s a real tragedy,” Johnson said.
When the Sea Scouts declined to sign a statement of policy that would have ended their relationship with the Boy Scouts of America, Berkeley halted its half-century tradition of granting the Sea Scouts a free berth and began charging the group a $500 a month fee.
Thus, some minority, low-income Sea Scouts members have dropped out of the popular youth program.
Pacific Legal attorneys argued to California’s Supreme Court that Berkeley’s fee amounts to fining the Sea Scouts for exercising First Amendment freedoms, specifically the Sea Scouts’ right to associate with the Boy Scouts of America.