BSA Attack - Text of Tribune Article/ACLU Press Release
Bob Nieland (rgn@MCS.NET)
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 21:53:53 -0500
ACLU SAYS GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE GROUPS OPERATING BOY SCOUT TROOPS ARE
Charging that the City of Chicago, the Chicago Board of Education, the FBI,
Commonwealth Edison, and other government and private organizations are
participating in illegal discrimination by operating Boy Scout units, the
American Civil Liberties Union today announced that it has demanded that
these organizations either seek to change the Boy Scouts' discriminatory
practices or stop participating in the local scouting council.
"This is not a challenge to the Boy Scouts of America or the Chicago Area
Council, but it does speak to the policies those organizations embrace,"
said Harvey Grossman, ACLU Legal Director. "Our concern is with the private
and government agencies which operate Boy Scout troops. By enforcing the Boy
Scouts' discriminatory practices in their own operations, these public and
private organizations are themselves engaging in illegal discrimination."
The ACLU contacted several municipal and private agencies by mail to alert
them that their operation of Boy Scout units violates the city's Human
Rights Ordinance and other laws prohibiting discrimination. Each Boy Scout
unit, regardless of who operates it, must follow Boy Scout rules and
regulations. The Boy Scouts require all prospective scouts, leaders, and
employees to recognize an obligation to God and to acknowledge God's
authority. The Boy Scouts also prohibit gay men and lesbians from
participating in scouting activities, whether as adult or youth members,
volunteers leaders, or professional employees. Persons who decline to comply
with these requirements are barred from participating in scouting programs.
Both public and private agencies operating scouting programs thus illegally
discriminate by limiting their services to people whose religious beliefs
are approved by the Boy Scouts, and by excluding individuals based on their
sexual orientation. This is in direct violation of laws including the
Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on
sexual orientation and religious belief.
"It is ironic that the City of Chicago, which took a strong stance against
discrimination based on sexual orientation when it passed Chicago's Human
Rights Ordinance, is actively engaged in such discrimination itself," noted
ACLU Gay and Lesbian Rights Project Director Roger Leishman. "We are asking
the city to act consistently with its own policies, and to obey its own
laws, by disavowing the Scouts' anti-gay practices."
"Government agencies that operate Boy Scout programs under these policies
advance the Scouts' religious mission," added Jane Whicher, ACLU staff
counsel. "Putting government resources behind religion violates the First
Amendment, and cannot be tolerated."
The City of Chicago and its various agencies operate numerous Cub Scout
packs, Boy Scout troops, and Explorer posts. The agencies involved include
the Chicago Police and Fire Departments, the Chicago Housing Authority, the
city's Corporation Counsel, and the Chicago Board of Education. Other
operators include the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the U.S.
Customs Service, as well as private agencies such as the Chicago and Cook
County Bar Associations, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and the LaSalle Banks.
The ACLU is presently litigating the case of G. Keith Richardson, an Eagle
Scout who, when he inquired to the Chicago Area Council about a job as a
professional scouter, was told that the Boy Scouts would not consider hiring
a gay man. The Chicago Commission on Human Relations ruled that the Boy
Scouts' policy discriminating against homosexuals is illegal; the case is
before a state circuit court for review. It was through this litigation that
the ACLU learned of the many government and private organizations that
actively discriminate in their operation of scouting programs.
The ACLU is awaiting a response from the City Corporation Counsel and
attorneys for the other sponsors before considering further action. "It is
our hope," said Legal Director Grossman, "that these organizations will
recognize and actively work to change these discriminatory policies, or in
the alternative discontinue operation of scouting programs."
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City