In October 2001,
John Scalise and his son, Benjamin, filed suit alleging the Huron Council of the Boy Scouts violated their religious freedom by requiring an affirmation of belief in God. Scalise and his son are atheists. Scalise also alleged that because Mt. Pleasant Public Schools are partnered with BSA, the district is violating its own nondiscrimination policy. The Scalises wanted BSA banned from Fancher Elementary until the suit is settled.
The Huron Council agreed in
December 2001 not to hold meetings at Fancher, until the lawsuit was settled.
Isabella County Circuit Court Chief Judge Paul Chamberlain said he would consider ordering a ban if an agreement wasn't made.
William Ewald, attorney for Mt. Pleasant Schools, said that the school district already had stopped BSA from coming onto school grounds during the day, and there hadn't been any meetings during or after school hours. He also
said that the district didn't anticipate distributing any Scout materials until April.
"If we can preserve that status quo, then we're happy," said Timothy Taylor, attorney for the Scalises. Scalise's lawsuit alleged that BSA and Mt. Pleasant schools violated Michigan's constitution and the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. He cited BSA's Declaration of Religious Principles, which BSA requires
Scout leaders to sign. Scalise, who had volunteered to be a Scout leader after his son joined in 1997, said the declaration's requirement that he make an affirmation of a belief in God offended him.
In December 2001, Judge Chamberlain granted the Scalises the right to monetary damages, but omitted relief in the form of an injunction. Both parties were unable to reach an agreement on damages. Before the issues went to trial, the Scalises filed a motion in
May 2002 with the court to reconsider it's December 2001 decision and issue a permanent injunction.
On November 4, 2002, Judge Paul Chamberlain reversed his previous decision awarding damages against BSA and dismissed the case brought by John Scalise against the Mt. Pleasant Schools and the local BSA council on the grounds of religious discrimination. Scalise is intending on appealing the decision.
In 2006, the US Supreme Court rejected
Scalise' appeal and the case was closed.
Supreme Court rejects appeal in Boy Scout case
Atheist father asked court to bar recruiting in public schools
The Associated Press
Updated: 11:45 a.m. ET May 30, 2006
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Tuesday from an atheist father over Boy Scout recruiting at his son's public school.
John Scalise had asked the court to bar public schools from opening their doors to Boy Scout recruiters and promoting membership, arguing that the group discriminates against nonreligious boys and
parents by denying them membership if they don't swear to religious oaths.
Scalise's dispute with the Scouts dates back to 1998, when his son was a third-grader in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
He claims he and his son were barred from a Scout program at the elementary school because they would not pledge "to do my duty to God and my country." They are nonreligious Humanists.
Michigan courts ruled that the school-Scout partnership did not
advance religion in violation of constitutional dictates.
Attorneys for the Scouts and Mount Pleasant school system told justices that the appeal was frivolous.
A Michigan appeals court said that Mount Pleasant schools allowed other organizations to use class facilities, including a hospital group, an Indian tribe, a Baptist church, and a hockey association.
Scalise argued that his son, Benjamin, was taunted by classmates
and humiliated by a Boy Scout recruiter in front of other students. Benjamin Scalise is now 17.
The Supreme Court's last Boy Scout case was in 2000. Justices ruled 5-4 at the time that the Boy Scouts can bar gays from serving as troop leaders. The ruling was written by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who died last year.
Scalise's attorney, Timothy Taylor of Mount Pleasant, said taxpayer-funded schools are too cozy with the Boy Scouts.
"It's going on all over the country and has been for decades," he said.
The case is Scalise v. Boy Scouts of America, 05-1260.
Michigan appeals court rejects religious discrimination suit against
By David Eggert / Associated Press
Friday, January 21, 2005
Detroit Free Press
LANSING -- An atheist who sued a school district for letting the Boy Scouts recruit in his son's school lost an appeal Friday when a court
ruled there was no religious discrimination.
The Michigan Court of Appeals let stand a judge's ruling that the Mount Pleasant Public Schools' ties with the Boy Scouts of America did not violate the state constitution.
John Scalise volunteered to become a troop leader when his son, Benjamin, joined the Cub Scouts. But he declined to sign the Scouts' declaration of religious principle, which is required of leaders.
The declaration recognizes an "obligation to God."
The Boy Scouts revoked Scalise's membership, and he pulled his son from the group.
Scalise then sued the school district, arguing the Boy Scouts should not be allowed to pass out fliers during school hours.
In a unanimous opinion, however, a three-judge panel said the
district's policy was neutral.
"It had a secular purpose and did not advance religion over non
-religion," Judge Bill Schuette wrote. "Simply because the Boy Scouts utilized the system does not itself create an Establishment Clause violation."
The case is Scalise v. Boy Scouts of America and Mount Pleasant Public Schools
On the Net: Michigan Court of Appeals: http://courtofappeals.mijud.net
Appeal planned in Boy Scout Lawsuit
By Richard Harrold
Sun City Editor
What a difference a year can make.
A year ago John Scalise and his son Benjamin won a partial victory when an Isabella County judge agreed with their charge that Mt. Pleasant Schools and the Boy Scouts of America ought not be recruiting new Cub Scouts during school hours.
But in an opinion filed Monday, Chief Judge Paul Chamberlain appears to have taken away any of Scalise's hopes for a remedy.
"They violated my client's constitutional rights, but there's no
remedy," said Scalise's attorney, Timothy Taylor, on Wednesday.
The school district's attorney, however, is pleased with the ruling.
"We urged the court to recognize the law as handed down all the way from the Supreme Court and he did that," said Saginaw attorney Bill Ewald, who has been representing the school district. "There's really nothing left." George A. Davidson, attorney for the Boy Scouts, agreed.
"This ends the proceeding," Davidson said, who is with the New York City firm Hughes, Hubbard & Reed.
However, it's not over for Scalise, as an appeal is planned, Taylor said.
Scalise sued the district and the Boy Scouts in October 2000 for religious discrimination. The organization barred him from being a Cub Scout volunteer and barred his then 9-year-old son from joining because they refused to sign a document affirming a belief in God.
A Scouting recruiter was allowed into Fancher School in 1997 during school hours and embarrassed the boy during class.
Scalise sued because he asserted that the district should not allow areligious group to recruit during school hours.
Chamberlain wrote last year that the school recognized that "it was inappropriate to use classroom time to promote an extracurricular activity that promotes certain religious beliefs."
Chamberlain's Nov. 29 ruling had also indicated a jury should determine what damages should be awarded, but Monday's opinion removes that option.
Taylor also said he was concerned that Chamberlain didn't issue a restraining order to prevent the school district and the Boy Scouts in the future from organizing recruiting efforts at local schools during school hours.
Mt. Pleasant Schools Superintendent Gary Allen said the district has
no plans to allow groups like the Boy Scouts into classrooms during the school day because the district's policy prohibits it.
We don't allow outside agencies to come in during instructional time, whether it's the Boy Scouts or someone else," Allen said.
In Monday's opinion, Chamberlain concluded that Scalise had failed to show any conscious connection that the district and the Boy Scouts were working together.
The mere fact that a Cub Scout group was identified by the school where it met was not sufficient evidence that the district officially sanctioned the pack, Chamberlain said in the opinion.
"If (Scalise) has heard a reference to the 'Fancher School Boy Scouts' it is obviously related to their meeting location only and in no way an official name based on sponsorship," Chamberlain said in the opinion.
And because Chamberlain ruled that Scalise had no action under the
state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, there was no avenue to receive damages, according to the opinion.
"He doesn't think they damaged his civil rights," Taylor said of Chamberlain.