From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Supreme Court to consider arguments in Boy Scout case

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 20 Apr 2000 14:13:15

April 20, 2000        News media contact: Joretta Purdue ·(202)
546-8722·Washington     10-21-28-71B{214}

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - On April 26, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a
controversial case involving the Boy Scouts of America -- a case in which
two United Methodist agencies have taken positions on opposing sides.

In the Boy Scouts v. Dale, the Boy Scouts of America organization is seeking
to overturn a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the
organization from denying membership to gay boys and leadership roles to gay

In March, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and other
religious groups submitted an amicus curiae - or friend of the court -
brief, a written argument that supports the position of one party to the
case. The board, headquartered in Washington, based its participation in the
judicial process on a resolution passed at its October directors' meeting,
and the brief itself was voted on before being submitted.

The denomination's Commission on United Methodist Men also has signed an
amicus brief with other organizations, but these groups are on the opposite
side of the question. The commission has offices in Nashville, Tenn.

The United Methodist Church itself has no position on the issue. Only the
General Conference, the denomination's highest legislative assembly, can
speak for the church, and it has not acted on the Boy Scouts issue.

Both the board and commission believe they are upholding important points. 

They are not alone. More than 20 amicus curiae briefs related to the case
have been filed with the U.S. Supreme Court. The documents seem almost
evenly divided between the two sides, and most briefs are sponsored by more
than one organization.

In 1998, the Commission of United Methodist Men had joined in filing a brief
on behalf of the Boy Scouts when the case was headed into the New Jersey
Supreme Court. At the commission's meeting last September, the members voted
to join in submitting its arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court if that body
agreed to hear the case.

The commission joined the case to express its belief that private
organizations have a constitutional right to set their own criteria for
membership and leadership, according to commission leaders.

In taking its position, the Board of Church and Society cited the church's
Social Principles. "We insist that all persons regardless of age, gender,
national status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and
civil rights ensured," the board said, quoting Paragraph 65G in the Book of
Discipline. The board also quoted from Paragraph 66H: "Certain basic human
rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to
supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons."

The board's amicus brief was filed jointly with other members of the
interreligious community. They are the United Church Board for Homeland
Ministries, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Diocesan
Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark and the Unitarian Universalist

The commission joined with the National Catholic Commission on Scouting, the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Lutheran Church - Missouri
Synod and the National Council of Young Israel.

Since its beginning in 1910, more than 87 million youth and adults have been
a part of the Boy Scouts of America. Churches sponsor 62 percent of Boy
Scout troops, or 55 percent of all boys in scouting. The United Methodist
Church has the largest involvement of any denomination, sponsoring 11,738
units that account for 421,579 boys.

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United Methodist News Service
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