Boy Scouts: After NJ Decision, Still "Business As Usual

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNS) - The Supreme Court of New Jersey's decision that may force the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to lift their ban on homosexuals serving as scoutmasters has touched off a firestorm of praise and criticism, but a spokesperson for the BSA claims that it's still "business as usual" for the youth movement.

The decision upholds a previous state appeals court decision that found that James Dale, an assistant scoutmaster, was illegally ordered to give up his post as an assistant scoutmaster nine years ago after local Scout leaders discovered he was homosexual.

Paul Stevenson, a spokesperson for the Boy Scouts of America, said that the youth movement was "disappointed" by the ruling, and promised an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, Stevenson told CNSNews.com that the decision will have little effect on the day-to-day operations of individual Boy Scout troops, emphasizing that "it's still business as usual" for the group.

"We're still studying the decision and what it means, but it should have little effect" in the short term on local troops around the nation, Stevenson emphasized.

The decision has been met with praise and criticism by both sides of the debate on homosexuality.

Praising what he called a "win-win ruling," Evan Wolfson, an attorney for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented Dale in the case, called the decision "a victory for gay youth who should be included, not excluded, from Scouting, as well as a victory for all members of Scouting, who join because they value honesty, community service, self-reliance, and respect for others - not discrimination."

In a statement released to CNSNews.com, Melina Waldo, the New Jersey regional director of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the parent of a former Scout, said she "applaud[s] this ruling by [New Jersey's] highest court," adding that she "looks forward to the day that the Scouts put aside a policy that is detrimental to all youth and society as a whole."

However, Glen Ellmers, director of research for the Claremont Institute, which filed an amicus brief in the case at both the appellate and state Supreme Court levels, said that the Boy Scouts, "like any private organization, should have the right to determine what its membership should be."

"The right to associate includes the right not to associate," Ellmers told CNSNews.com. "The New Jersey Supreme Court has determined that those rights no longer apply in New Jersey."

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, which assisted the Boy Scouts in the case, told CNSNews.com that the court "completely turned on its head the constitutional protections that the Boy Scouts enjoyed under the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association."

Sekulow added that his group is ready to assist the BSA in appealing the case to the Supreme Court.

Stevenson, spokesperson for the BSA, told CNSNews.com that the ban on homosexuals and atheists in the Boy Scouts has been in place since the organization's founding in 1910.

"Those who subscribe to the Scout Oath and Law are invited to join. Our position is based on the desire to provide role models that reflect Scouting's values and beliefs."

The BSA considers homosexuality and atheism inconsistent with those "values and beliefs," said Stevenson.