SAN FRANCISCO (CWN) - The California Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Boy Scouts of America are exempt from the state's anti-discrimination law, clearing the way for the Scouts to restrict membership for homosexuals and atheists.

      The state Supreme Court unanimously agreed that since the Scouts are not a business, but a voluntary membership organization, they can elect to bar membership for groups which oppose their core values. The ruling came in two cases, one in which the Scouts tried to expel twin brothers who refused to take recite oaths and creeds because they do no believe in God, and the other in which a San Francisco man's application to become assistant scoutmaster was turned down because he is a homosexual.

      Attorney Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice said the court had recognized that "the Boy Scouts can and should set the moral tone of their organization." Steven Schwalm of the Family Research Council also praised the decision. "Compelling a private youth organization dedicated to 'duty to God and country' to accept individuals whose activities are in conflict with their moral values promotes neither tolerance nor diversity," Schwalm said.

      The ruling contrasts with a decision March 2 by an appellate court in New Jersey that said the Boy Scouts and their local councils were "places of accommodation" with open membership and were covered by the state's civil rights law.

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March 25, 1998 volume 9, no. 60         DAILY CATHOLIC