The U.S. Supreme Court today allowed Connecticut to exclude the Boy Scouts of America from a state charitable program because of the Scouts’ policy barring avowed homosexuals from leadership.
Critics said the high court’s refusal to revisit the ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals threatens not only the First Amendment right to expressive association but also the right to free exercise of religion.
The decision has “far reaching implications that could threaten the constitutional rights of religious-based organizations that seek to promote and preserve their organizational values, particularly with regard to the issue of homosexuality,” said the Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.
For more than 30 years, the Boy Scouts had participated in the Connecticut State Employee Campaign Committee, which allows private groups to receive charitable donations through voluntary payroll deductions from state employees.
State officials denied the Boy Scouts access to the program, claiming the organization violated state non-discrimination laws by excluding avowed homosexuals from positions of leadership.
The organization says “such employment would interfere with scouting’s mission of transmitting values to youth.”
“Permitting this decision [Second Circuit Court of Appeals] to stand would in effect allow governments to legally extort organizations and individuals to give up basic beliefs,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, prior to the ruling.
Thompson noted homosexual activist organizations such as the Lambda Legal Defense Fund are allowed to participate in the state charitable campaign.
Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Evan Wolfson has said, “As long as the Boy Scouts’ leaders are insisting on an exclusionary membership policy, the rest of us, especially public schools, parents, and donors, are going to dissociate ourselves from discrimination against our kids.”
The Law Center said this decision, coupled with the Supreme Court’s ruling less than two weeks ago allowing the state of Washington to discriminate in its scholarship program against a Christian college student who majored in theology, is evidence of a “disturbing anti-Christian trend in the federal courts.”
“It suggests that the Supreme Court has taken sides in the culture war facing our nation,” Thompson said.
In 2000, the Supreme Court affirmed by a 5-4 vote the Scouts’ policy of excluding homosexuals from leadership.
The decision, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, held the youth organization had a constitutionally based right to discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation.” James Dale was an Eagle Scout whose adult membership in the Boy Scouts was revoked when the organization learned that he was an avowed homosexual and homosexual-rights activist.
The organization, founded in 1910, has more than 2.5 million youth members and 1 million adult members.