Supreme Court Won't Revisit Boy Scouts' Ban on Gays
Mon Mar 8, 2004 10:55 AM ET
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court allowed Connecticut on Monday to remove the Boy Scouts from a list of charities that receive contributions from state workers because the group excludes gays.
Without comment, the high court rejected an appeal by the Boy Scouts arguing the removal violated its constitutional
right to freedom of association and was discrimination based on its viewpoint.
A U.S. appeals court ruled that removing the Boy Scouts from a state workplace charity drive did not violate its right to expressive association under the First Amendment. The group had participated in the campaign for 30 years.
The Connecticut State Employee Campaign Committee removed the Boy Scouts from its list of eligible charities in 2000 after the state's human rights commission said the
ban on gays violated state anti-discrimination and gay rights laws.
Under a policy followed for more than 20 years, the Boy Scouts do not employ "known or avowed homosexuals as commissioned professional scouters or in other capacities" because "such employment would interfere with scouting's mission of transmitting values to youth."
The Boy Scouts, founded in 1910 and based in Irving, Texas, refuse to register "known or avowed homosexuals as adult
volunteer leaders or youth members."
The group, which also does not accept atheists or agnostics, says it has the right to decide who can join.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 by a 5-4 vote that the Boy Scouts may exclude gays on the grounds the private group has the right to set its own moral code and espouse its own viewpoint.
More than 2.5 million youth members and 1 million adult members are active in its Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and other groups.
Connecticut workplace charity campaign lasts from September to November each year and allows state employees to make voluntary donations through a payroll deduction plan.
The campaign allows donations to more than 900 charities, including religious and advocacy groups, the Girl Scouts and gay rights groups.
The New York-based appeals court ruled the Boy Scouts failed to prove Connecticut applied the state's gay rights law in a discriminatory manner.
The Boy Scouts
appealed to the Supreme Court.
It said the ruling was part of a growing pattern of decisions and state actions that have excluded the Boy Scouts and traditional religious groups from government programs because of their views and membership requirements involving "religious belief, morality and sexual conduct."
Five states -- Alabama, Idaho, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia -- supported the appeal, as did various religious groups and the American Legion, the
nation's largest veterans organization.
Lawyers for Connecticut argued that further review of the case was unnecessary and there was no factual basis for the claim by the Boy Scouts of viewpoint discrimination
Boy Scouts Vow to Continue Working for Children of Connecticut Despite Supreme Court Decision
IRVING, TX/ March 8, 2004/ PRNewswire – Boy Scouts of America is
disappointed to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear a case involving government discrimination against Boy Scouts.
Connecticut's exclusion of Boy Scout councils from a 900-charity fundraising campaign among state employees is a clear violation of Boy Scouts' First Amendment and equal protection rights. Charities still permitted to participate in this campaign include gay and lesbian groups and numerous groups which discriminatorily limit
services to a particular sex, ethnic group, or age group.
Last year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals recognized that singling out Boy Scouts from all similar organizations in the campaign was clearly "viewpoint disparity," but nevertheless held that Connecticut could require Boy Scouts to "pay a price" for "exercising its First Amendment rights." Boy Scouts of America believes that this decision flies in the face of Supreme Court
decisions prohibiting government viewpoint discrimination as well as the Supreme Court's decision in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, which held unconstitutional New Jersey's attempt to interfere with Boy Scouts' leadership policies.
Boy Scouts councils in Connecticut will continue to work for the benefit of the children of Connecticut, including providing inner-city youth with Scouting's character- and leadership-building programs.