August 11, 1999
Scouts vow to battle for homosexual ban
___TRENTON, N.J. (RNS)--The Boy Scouts of America will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold its ban on homosexuals, claiming its constitutional rights of free association and speech include the right to bar gays.
___"We'll argue the First Amendment," attorney George Davidson said in the wake of a ruling Aug. 4 by New Jersey's Supreme Court finding the Scouts' ban on gays violated the state's anti-bias laws.
___The ruling marked the first time a state high court has invalidated the Scouts' ban. The group also bars atheists and agnostics from membership and leadership positions.
___The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal advocacy group founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, said it found the New Jersey ruling troubling.
___"The decision is troubling and turns the Boy Scouts' constitutional right of freedom of association on its head," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.
___Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, "Every American who holds the teachings of Scripture dear should be extremely concerned about this decision. If they can declare a private organization like the Boy Scouts a 'public accommodation' today, there is nothing to prevent a similar assault on Christian churches tomorrow."
___The decision provides "clear and compelling evidence why we need the Religious Liberty Protection Act passed by Congress and signed into law," Land continued.
___"RLPA would greatly strengthen the Boy Scout organization's position in saying that no state can undermine the free exercise of religious rights as guaranteed under the First Amendment and thus protected by the federal courts."
___But the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force hailed the ruling as a victory for tolerance.
___"Discrimination is a harmful and serious moral wrong," said Kerry Lobel, executive director of the task force.
___The decision was a victory for James Dale, an assistant scoutmaster who was kicked out of the Scouts nine years ago because he is gay.
___In its ruling, the court held that the Boy Scouts "is a place of public accommodation" and therefore subject to the state's anti-bias law.
___It rejected the youth group's argument that the words "morally straight" and "clean" in the Scouts' Oath and Law "explicitly or implicitly stand for the proposition that homosexuality is immoral."
___Dale praised the decision.
___"This is exactly what scouting has taught me--to believe in the system and that goodness will prevail," he said at a news conference following the ruling.
___But Davidson, the Scouts' lawyer, said the ruling, because it conflicts with other rulings, will allow the Boy Scouts to "go to the U.S. Supreme Court and get a definitive ruling to put an end to these lawsuits."
___In 1998, the California Supreme Court upheld the Scouts' right to exclude gays, atheists and agnostics.
___Art Toalston of Baptist Press contributed to this article.
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