A decision by the city of Berkeley, Calif., to deprive the Sea Scouts of a traditional benefit because their parent organization holds a religious belief that does not allow homosexuals or atheists in positions of leadership is being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Now the Thomas More Law Center has filed a legal brief in support of the Sea Scouts, who are affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, a group that already has been before the Supreme Court where its right to limit those in leadership to those who share its beliefs has been affirmed.
The court that denied the Sea Scouts their First Amendment rights, L-R: Janice R. Brown, Joyce L. Kennard, Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, Ronald M. George, Ming W. Chin, Marvin R. Baxter, and Carlos R. Moreno. Carol A. Corrigan later replaced Brown
“This is a clear example of how radical homosexuals using the powers of government attempt to coerce compliance with their world views on sex, marriage and religion,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Law Center.
The Sea Scouts are a public service organization serving area youth by teaching them sailing skills, as well as carpentry and plumbing. Their parent organization, the BSA, has a prohibition on homosexuals and atheists in positions of leadership.
The original appeal was filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation and contests the end of the 50-year connection between the Sea Scouts and the city.
The case brief added by Thomas More also seeks to reverse the California Supreme Court’s opinion that said Berkeley could discriminate against the Sea Scouts because of the group’s beliefs.
The city provides free berthing privileges to other nonprofit groups at a city marina, but withdrew that privilege from the Scouts, so it now costs them about $6,000 a year for services other non-profits get without charge.
“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, in an earlier WND report. “May government punish you, or fine you, or subject you to second class treatment if you don’t pass a politically correct litmus test?”
It was the Supreme Court’s “Boy Scouts of America v. Dale” in which the high court recognized the Scout’s policy as an exercise of expressive association protected by the First Amendment.
However, the city of Berkeley said it would not be bound by that, and it would require that the Sea Scouts “repudiate” the association with BSA. When the Sea Scouts failed to meet that demand, the city decided it wouldn’t treat the Scouts as it does other groups.
The Law Center’s new brief says the state Supreme Court’s rejection of the Scouts’ right to expressive association places “an unconstitutional condition” on the receipt of public benefits in violation of the First Amendment.
“Berkeley may believe that the Sea Scouts should repudiate the BSA and its decision to exclude gays and atheists in order to promote a lifestyle that is ‘morally straight’ but the First Amendment prohibits the government from denying benefits to citizens simply because they refuse to abide by government orthodoxy,” said Patrick Gillen, the Law Center attorney on the case.
“Berkeley’s effort to make the Sea Scouts pay for exercising their right to expressive association should be struck down,” he said.
The BSA, in an announcement about the case, said the “California Supreme Court Ignores Constitutional Rights.” It expressed “dismay” that the court “chose to ignore United States Supreme Court precedent” in order to deny the Sea Scouts First Amendment rights.
The Law Center is a public interest firm that defends and promotes the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life through education, litigation and other activities.