NYCLU Reacts To Proposed School District Resolution Regarding Boy Scouts

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
September 26, 2000 12:00 am

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Statement of Norman Siegel,
Executive Director New York Civil Liberties Union


NEW YORK–Community School District Two has proposed a resolution withdrawing sponsorship and special privileges from the Boy Scouts of America based on its policy of excluding gay youth and adult members.

While the resolution denies special treatment to the Boy Scouts, it does not deny them access that is offered to other groups. In addressing a difficult and nuanced issue, the School District appears to have struck the right balance between the constitutionally protected rights of the Boy Scouts and the right of public school students to be free from discrimination.

The Constitution demands protection, but not endorsement, of the views of exclusionary organizations like the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts of America should not be denied equal access to generally open public facilities, but it should not receive special privileges or sponsorship from our public schools. While many different factors may affect how the balance should be struck in individual cases, the Community School District’s policy of equal access without special access should provide a good guiding principle.

The Community School District resolution refers to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. The NYCLU disagrees with the resolution’s characterization of the Dale decision as affirming “BSA’s private right to exclude gay youth and adult members,” (emphasis added) but acknowledges that the constitutionality of the Boy Scouts’ youth membership policies is undecided.

The Dale Court found that the Boy Scouts’ ability to convey its message condemning homosexual conduct would be substantially burdened if it were forced to admit an openly gay scout leader. This decision left open the question of whether the BSA’s exclusionary membership policies would be similarly protected because requiring BSA to open its membership would place the same burden on that message.

While recognizing that the Dale decision has been the catalyst for the current controversy regarding public support of the Boy Scouts of America, NYCLU is troubled that the Community School District Two resolution, and indeed most of the recent public dialogue regarding this issue, fail to take into account that the Boy Scouts of America have discriminated for years against girls and against those who refuse to affirm a duty to God.

In formulating their policies towards the Boy Scouts of America, the public schools and all government organizations should examine and consider all of the exclusionary policies of that organization. If the Boy Scouts were to reverse their policy on gay people, it would still be incumbent on the school district to consider any remaining exclusionary policies practiced by that group.

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