Skip to comments.Boy Scouts, ACLU Settle Land Lease Lawsuit
Posted on 01/08/2004 2:53:45 PM PST by RonF
San Diego and the American Civil Liberties Union settled a lawsuit over two leases between the city and the Boy Scouts, both sides announced Thursday.
The ACLU suit, filed in 2000, challenged the city's subsidy of the Desert Pacific Boy Scout Council through leases for public land in Balboa Park and Fiesta Island Aquatic Park.
In July 2003, a federal judge ruled the Balboa Park lease violates First Amendment guarantees of separation of church and state. The judge also put over for trial the matter of the Fiesta Island lease.
Under its settlement with the ACLU, the city will take no position on the validity of the leases in future legal proceedings, and the city will pay the ACLU's attorneys $790,000 for legal fees incurred during the three years of litigation and $160,000 in court costs.
"The Boy Scouts cannot have it both ways," said ACLU volunteer attorney M.E. Stephens. "Having gone to great lengths to establish that discrimination against gays and (athiests) is essential to their mission, and, therefore, protected by the First Amendment, they cannot now turn around and ask the people of San Diego to foot the bill for that discrimination."
The settlement also relieves the city of any liability to pay future ACLU legal costs.
"While it may be legally acceptable for the Scouts to privately discriminate against so many boys and their families, it has never been acceptable for the city to bar those families from a public park," said ACLU co-counsel Mark Danis. "Government has a constitutional duty to treat everyone equally and fairly."
The Boy Scouts of America, which is not a party to the settlement, has the right to continue to present defenses to ACLU legal claims.
The national organization, based in Irving, Texas, also retains possession of the leased properties during the pending litigation, including all appeals, according to Deputy City Attorney John Mullen.
The BSA says the mission of the organization is to "prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law."
The Scout Oath reads: "On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."
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How many is so many? How many kids are there that are the sons of atheists, or are open about their sexuality during youth activities?
it has never been acceptable for the city to bar those families from a public park,"
Which it doesn't; non-Scouting groups have been and are welcome to use the facilities in question.
"Government has the responsibility to treat everyone equally and fairly."
Including the BSA.
Did the city bar a gay scout troop from the park?
"The Boy Scouts cannot have it both ways," said ACLU volunteer attorney M.E. Stephens.
Am I missing something? How can legal fees be racked up by "volunteer" attorneys? Do they just volunteer to only make $150.00 per hour instead of the $1,500.00 per hour they could realize chasing ambulances?
"Questioning whether gay Scoutmasters should be taking 14-year-old boys on overnight sleepovers in the woods is "out of the mainstream."
The USSC did decide on the BSA's behalf that they are a private organization and therefore have the right to discriminate.
In this case (should it continue) the BSA is in the position of defending San Diego's lease of the land at a nominal rent. The city has bowed out and will not defend its own actions. I imagine the issue comes down to whether the city can lend its resources to a private (though benevolent) organization which discriminates.
San Diego has entry in its municipal code which might apply:
City Facilities. It shall be an unlawful service practice for any person to deny any individual the full and equal enjoyment of, or to place different terms and conditions on the availability of the use of any City facility on the basis (in whole or in part) of such individual?s sexual orientation or gender identity.I haven't seen the suit so I'm not sure what its basis is. There may be other city, state, or federal laws that could apply. I'm not sure that this is a case that'd make it all the way to the USSC. It does have relevance to dozens, maybe hundreds, of BSA leases and accomodations.
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