(CNSNews.com) – Conservatives are blasting a Democratic California lawmaker for introducing a bill to strip the Boy Scouts in California of their tax–exempt status, solely because Scout membership policy doesn’t allow homosexual scoutmasters or scouts.
State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach), announced legislation on Tuesday that he says would remove the state tax exemption for any youth group, including the Boy Scouts, “that discriminates against members and leaders on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws,” Lara said.
But Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for culture policy studies at the Family Research Council, had harsh words for Lara’s action
“This is outrageous and shocking,” Sprigg told CNSNews.com. “Because the constitutional right of the Boy Scouts to maintain the membership standard that they have had has already long since been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. So it’s very clear that they are exercising a constitutional right.”
The openly homosexual Lara was joined in his announcement by LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexualtransgender) activist groups.
John O’Connor, executive director of Equality California, said the Youth Equality Act would affect only Scout troops in California, but he hopes it would influence the national Boy Scouts of America, which is currently under pressure from groups like his -- and from some corporations -- to change Scout policy.
“California does not tolerate discrimination, and by removing this exemption, we will make it clear to the Boy Scouts and all other organizations that discrimination has a real cost,” O’Connor said.
“We believe this legislation will encourage groups to do the right thing, which is ending their discriminatory policies that unfairly exclude LGBT people.”
Peter Sprigg of FRC said the current controversy that the national Scout board faces from homosexual activists has -- until now -- been the result of private pressure – “the threat of boycotts, the threat by private corporations to withhold charitable donations and so forth.”
“I think all of that is unfortunate, but it is within their rights to do,” he said. “But for a legislator to introduce this kind of bill applying the coercive power of the government to force the Boy Scouts to cease exercising what has already been affirmed by the Supreme Court as a constitutional right, I think is outrageous.
Sprigg said this move reveals a slippery slope.
“I do think it shows the threat to personal liberty and religious liberty that the homosexual movement poses,” Sprigg said.
“If they can remove the tax exemption of the Boy Scouts because they don’t accept homosexual members, what’s to prevent (LGBT activists) from removing a tax exemption from your church?”
Just as troubling, Sprigg said, is the fact that the legislation, as drafted, is not limited to the Scouts.
“It appears that this applies not only to independent youth organizations like the Scouts, but to any organization affiliated with ‘any nonprofit private educational institution providing education for Kindergarten, grades 1-12, inclusive and college undergraduate programs.’ So it would appear to me that this is going after not only the Boy Scouts, but every Christian school, Christian college and Christian university in the state of California.
“I think that is absolutely shocking, as well,” he added.
In 2000, in Boy Scouts vs. James Dale, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of the Boy Scouts' right to restrict membership in the organization
“We are not, as we must not be, guided by our views of whether the Boy Scouts' teachings with respect to homosexual conduct are right or wrong; public or judicial disapproval of a tenet of an organization's expression does not justify the State's effort to compel the organization to accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organization's expressive message.
“While the law is free to promote all sorts of conduct in place of harmful behavior, it is not free to interfere with speech for no better reason than promoting an approved message or discouraging a disfavored one, however enlightened either purpose may strike the government,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote.
The national Boy Scout council has delayed until May a decision on a proposal by homosexual former scouts to let individual Scout councils decide their own policies on whether to accept homosexuals.