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       Thursday, February 16, 2006

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Boy Scouts are a Religion?

Do you consider the Boy Scouts a religion? A judge in San Diego said it was, and now the 9th Circuit (oh joy) gets a shot at it.
Arguments in a major Boy Scouts case unfolding in Pasadena, Calif., before a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – a case that is certain to be headed for the Supreme Court -- centered on the contention that the revered organization is actually a religion and should therefore not be given a lease of public land.

The case was brought by self-declared agnostics Lori and Lynn Barnes-Wallace and Michael and Valerie Breen, along with a son of each, in protest of a lease of parkland in Balboa Park and Fiesta Island by the city of San Diego to the Boy Scouts of America.

The agnostics sued the city on a claim that the lease to the Boy Scouts – out of more than 100 leases, including to the YMCA, a number of Jewish groups, one of which conducts Sabbath services on parkland, and the Girl Scouts – violates the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment, and that they are suffering "inferior usage" thereby because they don't want to have to apply for permits, or pay usage fees, to the BSA. The case is Barnes-Wallace, et al. v. Boy Scouts of America, Nos. 04-55732, 04-56167.

A federal judge in San Diego granted the summary judgment to the agnostics, finding that the Boy Scouts are a "religion" because of the Boy Scout Oath, which includes doing one's duty to "God and my country," and the Boy Scout Law, which includes "reverence" as one of 12 precepts. Also, the Scouts require a belief in God as a condition of membership.

The city itself is not part of the appeal. It settled with the American Civil Liberties Union to avoid further expense, agreeing to terminate the lease and to give the ACLU $940,000 in attorney fees. The appeal continues since the Boy Scouts, if they prevail, want to be able to contract for a lease with the city again.

The case has drawn national attention because the federal judge's finding that the BSA is "a religion" imperils the future work of not only the Boy Scouts, but all organizations that recognize a transcendent higher authority, including community service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis, Alcoholics Anonymous, which works directly with the courts and government, and veterans organizations like the American Legion, whose constitutional preamble begins "For God and Country," almost identical to the Boy Scouts Oath.

That any federal judge considered the BSA a religion is truly unbelievable. But the idea that using the "G" word in a sentence prevents you from consideration at all by any level of government is even more preposterous. When you see how much religion the Founding Fathers allowed for in government by their actions, this can't possibly be a First Amendment issue. At least not the First Amendment the way they intended it to be. But to the "living document" judges, the Constitution means whatever they want it to mean. Today. Until they change their minds. Again.

So much for the Constitution be a foundation.

Doug Payton blogs at Considerettes.

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posted by Doug at 2:26 PM  


geophyte said...

"When you see how much religion the Founding Fathers allowed for in government by their actions..."

Well I guess you never heard of the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli or the US Constitution, which clearly says no religious test will be required for office. I guess you forgot that in the early 1800's, certain religious groups tried to change the Preamble to the Constitution so it would say "We the Christian People..." with other christian influences elsewhere in the Preamble as well? I guess you, Bush, or Condaleeza don't understand that this country is a REPUBLIC not a DEMOCRACY or MOBOCRACY as the Founding Fathers referred to it?

The real point here is that if you are going to say you are a private club (as the Boy Scouts do) and therefore you can limit who you allow to join that club (again, as the Boy Scouts do) then don't expect those you have banned from your club to help support it! Why should I pay taxes on community property for a group that will not let me join to use? Why should atheist, rationalist, buddhist, agnostics, etc. be forced to use their tax money to help a club that will not let them in? Hell doesn't the church get enough of a tax break on the BILLIONS of dollars in properties they own?

Want to be part of a private exclusionary club? Fine, but have the character to take on the responsibility that comes with it and pay for the damn thing yourself!

DING! Thank you for playing.

12:20 PM  
Aaron Kinney said...

The Boy Scouts endorses theism. The Boy Scouts requires all its members to be theists.

I suppose next you will be claiming that its ok if the Federal Government endorses theism and requires all its employees to be theists?

Or, would you still feel the same way about this issue if the Boy Scouts endorsed atheism instead and required all its members to be atheists?

8:17 PM  

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