Court Rejects Justice Department's Attempt to Enter San Diego Boy Scout Lease Case

March 17, 2004 12:00 am

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SAN DIEGO– The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties today applauded a ruling that the United States Department of Justice cannot intervene in its challenge to the constitutionality of subsidized leases for the San Diego Boy Scouts.

“The U.S. Department of Justice sought to defend the Boy Scouts’ use of taxpayer money to subsidize a self-described a religious organization that discriminates on the bases of religious non-belief and sexual orientation,” said M. Andrew Woodmansee of the law firm of Morrison and Foerster, which is co-counsel with the ACLU in the litigation. “The government claimed to have an interest in protecting the Boy Scouts’ position, but the interest of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division should be to eliminate the very types of discrimination practiced by the Scouts. We are pleased by the court’s decision.”

The Desert Pacific Council of the Boy Scouts receives subsidized leases from the City of San Diego for virtually free use of city in Balboa Park and on Fiesta Island.

The DOJ had attempted to obtain “friend-of -the-court” status in the case based on its interest in the religious liberty issues involved. Federal district court judge Napoleon Jones ruled on March 16 that the federal government’s interests would not be affected by the outcome of this case and that it had no reason to be involved.

Based on the Boy Scouts’ own assertion that they are a private religious organization, Judge Jones ruled in 2003 that the Boy Scouts’ city-subsidized lease at Balboa Park violated constitutional principles of separation of church and state. The City of San Diego settled with the ACLU on the Balboa Park site earlier this year based on Judge Jones’ 2003 ruling; a second lease, at Fiesta Island, was held over for trial by the judge.

Judge Jones will be hearing further motions in this case on April 5, 2004. The case is Barnes-Wallace v. San Diego, case # 00cv1726J.

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