Re: Duty to God (was Atheist Scouts)
Bruce E. Cobern (bec@PIPELINE.COM)
Mon, 3 Nov 1997 14:09:14 -0500
> From: Calvin H. Gray <405geezer@IGG-TX.NET>
> Date: Monday, November 03, 1997 1:09 PM
> If I remember correctly, these boys were refused admission to the Cub
> Scout program several years ago because they are atheists. Their father
> initiated legal action which resulted in the California courts ordering
> the BSA to grant admission. Since then, the California courts have
> allowed them to become Boy Scouts (although they *do not* subscribe to
> the Scout Oath) and to progress in the program to where they are close
> to achieving the Eagle Award.
> It will be interesting to see what happens next. Will National grant
> the Eagle Award? Well, I for one, hope not because these two young men
> have not fulfilled the requirements to be Eagle Scouts as they have
> never subscribed to the "Duty to God" portion of the Scout Oath. My
> guess is that we'll see this case before the United States Supreme Court
> in a year or two.
This is a pretty good summary of the situation. However, there are a
couple of other points that will help put the current situation in
The case was decided by the original California court after another
decision in Northern CA called Curran (now Curran I) in which the court
held that the local council was a business subject to the Unruh Act, a CA
civil rights statute that applies to businesses. Under this act the court
ruled that Curran, a gay SA from the San Francisco area could not be
expelled from the program.
At this point, relying on Curran I, the court held that Orange County
Council could not prevent the Randall twins from joining AND that they had
to be allowed to advance without regard to any requirements requiring a
belief in God.
Subsequent to the Randall decision the Curran case was reversed on appeal
(Curran II) and the court ruled that the local council was NOT a business
subject to the Unruh Act and that Timothy Curran had no right, under the
law, to be a member and the council could revoke his membership. Because
of the conflict, in 1994, the California Supreme Court agreed to both
cases. To date it has not scheduled oral arguments so these cases, which
I believe have been joined, are still sitting, unscheduled, on the court's
In the meantime the California courts have ruled in the Yeow case that the
BSA is not subject to Unruh and does not need to admit girls to the
program. I believe they cited Curran II. So, currently, Randall is the
only case which would subject the BSA and its councils to Unruh with
regard to membership status.
At this point I don't believe that either the local council or national
has a choice. They are currently under court order to ignore the
requirement for a belief in God in all matters concerning these two young
men. Thus, if the ONLY thing that would stop them would be this lack of
belief they are constrained to award the badges.
That is why they were back in court this time around. All the council,
which has at all times abided by the court order, asked for was a delay in
the consideration of the Eagle applications until after the CA Supreme
Court issued its ruling on the pending cases. The Supreme Court refused
to do so. Thus the boys are likely to be awarded their Eagles.
Of course, down the road if the CA Supreme Court rules in favor of the
BSA, which I believe is likely considering the results of all the cases if
taken in sequence, I would not be surprised to see these Eagles rescinded
shortly after a favorable CA Supreme Court ruling. I do not believe that
these cases are headed to the US Supreme Court because the statute under
which suit was brought was a local statute. I don't believe there was any
claim that federal law was violated. But I could be wrong. That will
have to wait and see.
Bruce E. Cobern
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City