Bill Backing Boy Scouts Dismissed as Prejudicial

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
May 28, 2001 12:00 am

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NASHVILLE–Critics of legislation filed by Representative Van Hilleary and United States Senator Strom Thurmond say the bill purportedly designed to stop discrimination against

the Boy Scouts of America and other anti-gay groups is nothing but political posturing, the Tennessean reported.

According to the Tennessean, Hilleary’s measure was approved last week as an amendment to a larger education measure by a voice vote in the House. Thurmond’s bill is scheduled to be heard this week in the Senate when that body reconvenes after the Memorial Day break.

The bill would block federal funds to public school systems that deny the Boy Scouts of America equal access to facilities, something the American Civil Liberties Union says already is against the law.

“Simply put, the Helms-Hilleary amendment is an endorsement of discrimination,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of ACLU of Tennessee.

”Since it is already illegal for public schools to treat the Boy Scouts differently because of their beliefs, this legislation is unnecessary,” she explained.

Weinberg added, ”It would also give the Boy Scouts and other anti-gay groups a unique new right, thus violating the constitutional prohibition on the government promoting or penalizing a specific viewpoint.”

The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled constitutional the Boy Scouts’ national policy of banning gay members and leaders, and it cited the right to freedom of association granted to private groups.

Hilleary, a Boy Scout as a youngster in his Spring City, Tennessee hometown, said that he introduced the bill because the Broward County (Florida) School Board tried to keep the Boy Scouts from meeting in schools and that other school districts throughout the country had made similar moves.

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