By: Marilyn Burge Re: Boy Scots Finally Lose One On January 18, 1996, the Commonwealth of

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By: Marilyn Burge Re: Boy Scots Finally Lose One On January 18, 1996, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission issued a finding of Probable Cause in the case of Margaret Downey- Schottmiller v. Chester County Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Margaret LDowney, an AHA board member, had filed a complaint with the commission on behalf of herself and her son, Matthew, alleging unlawful discrimination by the BSA, which had refused to permit her to become an adult volunteer and her son to become a Boy Scout because they would not declar a belief in God. The Boy Scouts of America, in turn, denied the unlawful discrimination, asserting that membership in the BSA is "not an accommodation, advantage, or privilege of a public accommodation" and that "the Boy Scouts are distinctly private within the meaning of the act; that all persons seeking youth or adult membership must agree to observe the Scout Oath and Scout Law," which includes reference to God. Pursuant to its federal charter and bylaws, the Boy Scouts of America is mandated to makescouting available to all boys who meet entrance age requirements irrespective of race, religion, or ethnic origin. However, in August 1992, the BSA told Margaret LDowney and her son that it required them to "acknowledge the existence of God as a condition of becoming a Boy Scout or an adult volunteer." Because of this stance, the commission concluded: Probable cause exists to credit the Complainant allegations that both she and her minor son were unalwfully discriminated against, in violation of Section 6(i) of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, because of religious creed when Respondent [the BSA] advised the Complainant that belief in the existence of God was a requirement to obtain the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and/or privileges offered to Boy Scouts and adult membership volunteers. the Commission then ordered the BSA to immediately advice Downey and her son of their right to apply for membership at the appropriate levels, to notify all administrative personnel and volunteers in writing that "individuals who are unwilling or unable to acknowledge a belief in God for religious reasons may nontheless apply for and be accepted as scouts and/or volunteers"; and to post and exhibit prominently the commission's public accommodations fair practices poster, advising people of the rights guaranteed under the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act. A meeting is scheduled for February 29, 1996, between Downey and the Boy Scouts to discuss these terms and conditions. The important precedent established by the commission's decision is its rejection of the BSA's assertion of their "private" nature -- the rejection based upon the BSA's own statement of purpose and the nature of its actual recruiting and membership policies. Hopefully, this decision will influence other cases pending elsewhere. Source: Free Mind, Volumn XXXIX, Number 2, March/April 1996 (membership newsletter of the American Humanist Association). ... Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. --- PPoint 2.00 * Origin: So What's Yer Point? (1:105/40.666)

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