July 08, 2005

Boy Scouts Lose Government Money

by Sean Sirrine

In 2000 the Supreme Court decided that it was acceptable for the Boy Scouts to discriminate against gay troop leaders in the case of BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA et al. v. DALE. Here's a bit of commentary from CNN on that opinion:

The Boy Scouts, which also exclude atheists and agnostics as leaders, said it has the right to decide who can join its ranks.

Forcing it to accept gays would violate its constitutional right of freedom of association and free speech under the First Amendment, it said.

The Boy Scouts insisted that it is up to them, not to any court, to decide who will be an adult Scout leader and who will not and who is an appropriate role model for younger Scouts and who is not.

The Boy Scouts have been sued many times before in state courts, but the organization has consistently won judgments that say it does not fall under state public accommodations laws.

Since that time, the Boy Scouts have been very pleased that they can discriminate as a private organization, but now they are getting angry because they can't receive federal money.

According to the AP, U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning ruled in June that:

the Pentagon can no longer spend millions in government money to ready a Virginia military base for a national Boy Scout event typically held every four years, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday.

This case:

stems from a 1999 lawsuit by the ACLU of Illinois that claimed the Defense Department sponsorship violates the First Amendment because the Scouts require members to swear an oath of duty to God.

A Scouts spokesman said he expects the Pentagon's lawyers to appeal.

"We are confident that an appeal to the 7th Circuit will return everything to the status quo," Bob Bork said.

ACLU of Illinois spokesman Ed Yohnka said no other youth organization receives millions of dollars in government support, and that the injunction is the latest step toward ending the Scouts' unfair advantage.

Isn't that strange? The Boy Scouts want to be a private organization when they want to discriminate against particular groups, but they want to fall under the public umbrella when they want your money.

I respect all points of view when it comes to issues like this, except for views from one group that are entirely hypocritical. Either you are a private organization that may discriminate, but may not receive federal funds. Or you are a public organization that can't discriminate, but can receive federal funds. Trying to do both makes the organization look dishonest and ridiculous.

Make up your mind Boy Scouts, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

July 8, 2005 01:08 PM | TrackBack

Another example: not long ago, there was a pool of money lying around in a court fund in indianapolis as a result of some sort of litigation. maybe it was a class action where some of the proceeds were never claimed, i forget. so the court decided to give the money to the boy scouts. i thought this was wrong, since it is government endorsement of a group that discriminates on religious and gender-preference lines (although why am i less troubled that it discriminates on gender lines?) But so far nobody has challenged it.

Posted by: arbitrary aardvark at July 10, 2005 07:14 PM

A few nitpicks:

Boy Scouts v. Dale was about state law and the First Amendment right to "expressive association."

The ACLU thing is about the Establishment Clause.

They're separate issues. If the federal government withheld funds to all organizations that discriminated against homosexuals, and the Boy Scouts tried to say "give us your money, but let us discriminate," that would be hypocritical and probably tossed out of court.

But that's not what happened.

You make a good rhetorical point, but technically I don't think it should have affected the outcome of either case. The Boy Scouts' rejection of homosexuals isn't technically based on religion.

I also think it's a little funny that the "Scouts spokesman" is named Bob Bork.

Posted by: WB at July 13, 2005 08:28 AM
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