| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Dec 20 The Boy Scouts of America
can lease public land from the City of San Diego for a cheap
rate despite the fact the scouts prohibit atheists, agnostics
and homosexuals from becoming members, a U.S. appeals court
In an opinion on Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in San Francisco said two leases do not violate the
constitutional separation of church and state.
The Boy Scouts policy denying membership to gay scouts and
scout leaders has prompted protests and lawsuits. In 2000 the
organization won a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing the
organization to ban gays whose conduct, the Boy Scouts argued,
violated its values. The Scouts reaffirmed the policy earlier
In San Diego, an organization chartered by the Boy Scouts
leases portions of two popular city parks to provide children
with an urban camping experience. In exchange for spending money
developing facilities on the land, the Scouts pay virtually no
A group of plaintiffs who are either lesbians or agnostics
sued, saying they would use the land leased by the scouts but
for the organization's discriminatory policies.
A lower court judge found the leases unconstitutional, but
on Thursday a unanimous three judge 9th Circuit panel reversed.
The city has leased 123 parcels to nonprofit agencies, the
overwhelming majority of which are secular in nature, the court
wrote, and 96 of those leases require no payment of rent.
"The city's practice of leasing its lands is by no means
occasional or targeted in favor of sectarian organizations," it
Representatives for the plaintiffs and the Boy Scouts could
not immediately be reached for comment.
The case in the 9th Circuit is Barnes-Wallace vs. Boy Scouts
of America, 04-56167.