Appeals Court Says That San Diego Can Lease Cheap Land to Bigoted Boy Scouts

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals — typically thought of as a safe place for liberals — just gave the bigoted Boy Scouts of America license to continue discriminating against atheists and gays by letting the city of San Diego lease it land for the cost of $1/year:

Even though the Boy Scouts of America bars atheists and gays, the city of San Diego is allowed to lease the group public property at nominal rates without running afoul of the state and federal constitutions, a federal appeals court decided Thursday.

… the panel concluded that the city leases were not discriminatory.

“There is no evidence that the city’s purpose in leasing the subject properties to the Boy Scouts was to advance religion, and there is abundant evidence that its purpose was to provide facilities and services for youth activities,” wrote Judge William C. Canby Jr., a President Carter appointee, for the unanimous panel.

The plaintiffs can still appeal to the full court… but no word yet on whether they will do that.

This result is beyond disappointing. The BSA, as a private group, has every right to kick out people they deem unworthy, but the government should not be giving them any incentives for doing it. If the BSA wants to use the land, they ought to pay full price.

No other bigoted group gets this sort of gift handed to them — and you can bet that if we were talking about an atheist group that kicked out Christians, it wouldn’t be getting a government reward as a result.

(Thanks to Brian for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Bdole

    Why doesn’t anyone every mention the fundamental discrimination of BSA – it’s only for boys. What do girls get out of those foregone lease payments, and hence municipal services, to the city of San Diego?

  • ortcutt

    If San Diego were to implement a non-discrimination policy for groups renting city land, you can guarantee that conservative religious groups would scream bloody murder. Given the court’s decision here, that’s really the next step if we want to stop this sort of thing.

  • gingerjet

    Its not $1/year. Its $1/year plus $2500/year admin fee plus spending 1.7million over seven years in improvements to the property. As a new resident to San Diego (and as someone who lives a half mile from the stated property) I’m really having a hard time getting bent out of shape over this one. Especially since this is a city where the Republican candidate for mayor this year was an openly gay guy.

  • Brian Westley

    In testimony of this case, the BSA revealed that the general public only gets to use this property 20% of the time, and none of it during the peak summer months — the BSA books it solid with their own members first.

    And those agreements for fees and improving the property only came AFTER this lawsuit started (about 14 years ago now); the BSA is doing what it can to make this look like a fair deal, instead of a handout.

  • Freemage

    Hm… I wonder if the ruling would’ve gone a different direction if one of the various alt-Scouting organizations had been among the plaintiffs. After all, they offer pretty much the same opportunities and function, by design, but the favoritism given to the BSA gives them an unfair advantage in recruitment.

  • Erp

    Not quite correct, cubs and boy scouts proper are boys only but Venturing which is strictly for older kids and also part of the traditional program of BSA is mixed sex.

    In the long long run the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts may merge as they have in some other countries (or the BSA goes completely co-ed) but for the sake of the the girls in Girl Scouting I don’t want to see that until the BSA has become way more open to gays and godless.

  • rg57

    “The plaintiffs can still appeal to the full court [of 28+ judges]“. No, that’s not something the 9th circuit does, because it’s too big. They can appeal to a panel of 11 judges.

    The case number is 04-55732, known as “Barnes-Wallace v. Boy Scouts of America”. The decision was written by Canby (appointed by Carter) also for Berzon (appointed by Clinton). Kleinfeld (appointed by George HW Bush) concurred, but said that plaintiffs shouldn’t even have had standing.

  • Randomfactor

    If another organization bids $2 for the same lease, THEY should get it for the year.

  • DougI

    Sigh, another case of Christians being persecuted. If only they were treated as equals like Atheists and not given the burden of being forced to choose between cheap land or the price everyone else pays.

  • vanessa p

    The city’s practice of leasing its lands is by no means occasional or targeted in favor of sectarian organizations.