New California Legislation Would Remove Tax Breaks from the Boy Scouts for Discriminating Against Atheists

The Boy Scouts of America are still considering letting in gay members and leaders — but even if their rules change, they would still forbid atheists from joining their organization. Katherine Stewart said as much in a recent article:

… the questionnaire, like much of the coverage surrounding it, is silent about the role of religion in shaping the Boy Scout’s discriminatory policies in another area, one that is distinct from and yet intimately connected with its bigotry toward gay people.

Adult leaders in the Boy Scouts must sign a Declaration of Religious Principles, and Scouts must take an oath “to do my duty to God”. Both adults and children can and have been excluded from the organization for lack of belief in a supreme being (or beings).

Now, California lawmakers may punish any group that discriminates against LGBT individuals or atheists. Sen. Ricardo Lara recently introduced Senate Bill 323 and it’ll have its first committee hearing tomorrow:

Sen. Ricardo Lara

“Our state values the important role that youth groups play in the empowerment of our next generation; this is demonstrated by rewarding organizations with tax exemptions supported financially by all Californians,” Lara said. “SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups.”

it would require those organizations to pay corporate taxes on donations, membership dues, camp fees and other sources of income, and to obtain sellers permits and pay sales taxes on food, beverages and homemade items sold at fundraisers.

SB 323 would affect any discriminatory nonprofit youth group like the BSA:

An organization listed above shall not discriminate on the
basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality,
religion, or religious affiliation
.

Any schools or churches that sponsor or host such organizations would not be punished.

As you might expect, the Christian Right is already painting this as a war against Christianity:

“SB 323′s primary purpose is to penalize BSA based on its constitutionally protected membership policy and the values that underlie it,” lawyers for the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom wrote in a letter to lawmakers last week. “This type of targeted punishment of a group based on how it exercises its associational and free speech rights violates the First Amendment.”

Punishment. They used the word punishment to describe a law that would only give tax breaks to non-discriminatory groups. That protects Christians as much as it does atheists, and straight people as much as gays and lesbians. But the ADF believes that bigoted groups deserve relief from California taxpayers.

It’s really a brilliant move on the part of Sen. Lara. The state legislators have no control over how the BSA operates — and they shouldn’t — but they have plenty of control over which groups gets taxed. By applying a standard of inclusion to all nonprofit youth organizations that want an exemption, Lara has found a way to force the BSA to change its ways or pay the standard price. (Not an excess price, mind you, but a standard price.)

If you live in the state, please ask your elected officials to support this bill as it goes through the legislative process. Let it be a model for other states. The BSA shouldn’t be rewarded for telling atheists and gay scouts they’re not allowed to be part of the group.

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.

  • 7Footpiper

    They’ll still have a constitutional right to define their membership requirements as they see fit, they just can’t do it tax-free.

  • Mackinz

    I used to be a Boy Scout… never got too high because of a falling out with the Troop Leader, but, as I am an atheist now, I’m rather okay that I got out of the group early.

    Such discrimination is intolerable. It should be especially so for a group that claims to teach morality and other good skills.

    I also live in California. How exactly do I tell my reps to accept this bill?

    • Mackinz

      I found my senator’s e-mail and I have typed up a 1802 character-long e-mail to him.

      I shall post it here. Please comment any feedback you might have on it, as I am interested in improving it:

      Hello, Senator Lieu. My name is Tim, and this will mark my first time attempting to make my voice heard in the process of bill-making.

      I’ll get right to the point.

      I support Senator Ricardo Lara’s bill SB 323. I hear it is going to have its first committee hearing tomorrow, so I felt the need to voice my opinion before the meeting.

      Simply put, the bill puts an end to the discriminatory actions of non-profit organizations at the threat of taxation. Notably of those groups affected by the bill, the Boy Scouts of America would be forced to change it’s discriminatory practices against those of homosexual or bisexual orientation, of transgender gender identities, and of those who choose to not believe in a god in any way, shape or form. Either that, or be required to pay up for their discrimination.

      Personally, I cannot stand discrimination. I was a Boy Scout for several years, and, looking back, the very thought that this group, as well as many others, can get away with discriminatory practices at the cost of taxpayer money really angers me.

      I am also an atheist and, if I had a son, he could not reap the same benefits that I did growing up. Not without both of us lying through our teeth. There are many in California who already have this issue, either unable to have their son in the Boy Scouts due to religious affiliation (or gender identity or sexual orientation) , or lying through their teeth to allow their son into the organization.

      We simply cannot stand for this kind of discrimination against people who are our family members, our neighbors, even ourselves. Pressuring these organizations to adopt less restrictive regulations based upon personal beliefs and identities would have nothing but a positive effect.

      Please do your best to pass SB 323.

      Thank you for your time.

      • Helanna

        I like it. It makes a very well-reasoned case and lists all the problems with discrimination. And it’s definitely good to email your reps and just let them know that people really do care, and remind them that they’re supposed to represent *all* of their constituents.

      • http://twitter.com/ThundalArchsys Thundal Archsys

        That was very well written, formatted, and straight to the point. That’s almost poetry, sir.

      • Tyrrlin Flamestrike

        Very well worded, however the proper spelling in your first paragraph about the Boy Scouts should be “its discriminatory practices”, not “it’s discriminatory practices”. Otherwise, your letter is beautifully worded. I wish I could be as eloquent. :-)

  • TheGodless

    About time. If only it was federal legislation and included the fact that the Boyscouts also discriminate against nonbelievers.

    • Mackinz

      It may not be federal, but the bill does say that “An organization listed above shall not discriminate on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or religious affiliation.”

      Atheism is a religious affiliation, and the Boy Scouts are, indeed, listed above in the context of the bill.

      Half of your wish is granted.

  • CDP

    I wonder if there will be any cuts on tax breaks for groups who exclude folks who reject homosexual normality. If not, then it’s just the usual lust liberals have for Orwellian dream worlds, where in the name of tolerance and diversity, everyone must conform or else face segregation and ostracizing,if not outright eradication. Of course it might include atheist groups who who don’t hold open for religious, or liberal groups who exclude people based on their conservative positions on abortion and gay marriage. If so, then it’s a law based on separation of church and state. If not, it’s just another instance of secular liberals pining for the good old days of Uncle Joe and his Siberian sleigh rides.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Typical martyrbating.

      Nobody is demanding that the religious powers behind the Boy Scouts change their beliefs. Federal funding for groups is not a Constitutional right. Expecting groups who want funding to follow the law is not segregation, ostracizing or any other mean sounding word you can think up to stroke your ego.

      Get off the cross. We need the wood.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

      It’s pretty much accepted that Democratic, Liberal or Centrist organizations are welcoming to anyone, even including many of these political ideologies: The Fascist Republicans for Speech Enslavement, The Fascist Conservative Party of Men for the Restoration of Misogynistic Liberties , The Tolerant Christians for Bigotry Party, The American Republican Party of Noe-Nazi Christian Bigots for The Restoration of Wife Beater Undershirts, etc etc

    • Kengi

      Give me a real-life example of such a group. Or is this just all in your head?

    • Carmelita Spats

      1. What you describe as “segregation” and “ostracizing” is society asking that you not act like a cunt towards others. It’s that simple. Be civilized or be marginalized. It’s YOUR choice so quit whining and take PERSONAL responsibility for your bigotry instead of pawning it off on Jesus.

      2. You are as confused as a cow on Astroturf. Why would a religious person want to join an atheist group? Why would a conservative seek membership in a liberal group? More importantly…What, exactly, do the Boy Scouts of America have to do with theism and heterosexuality? I thought they just did service projects and sold junk outside Wal-Mart.

      3. Is it always “Opposite Day” inside your head?

      P.S…I’m a libertarian.

    • The Captain

      “I wonder if there will be any cuts on tax breaks for groups who exclude folks who reject homosexual normality”.. CHURCH’S, your fucking churches do all that and get tax breaks you dumb ass!

    • TiltedHorizon

      Sorry to disappoint but I’ve always preferred the Rockwellesque “dream world” where a white picket fence is the only thing separating us from each other. In this ideal “dream world” the only requirement for joining the Boy Scouts of America is being a boy who lives in America, instead membership is predicated on conformity to their ‘requirements’ else face segregation and ostracizing; no Orwellian dream worlds required. The fact that you ignore this and equate inclusivity with Stalinism shows the potential business opportunities of producing tinfoil hats.

    • PietPuk

      Troll

    • http://twitter.com/ThundalArchsys Thundal Archsys

      “I wonder if there will be any cuts on tax breaks for groups who exclude folks who reject homosexual normality.”

      Curches.

      “where in the name of tolerance and diversity, everyone must conform”

      Intolerance of intolerance is not itself a problem. People who refuse to see people as people are not welcome in our society.

      “If not, it’s just another instance of secular liberals”

      Pro-tip: The democratic and republic ideals state that *everyone* should vote secularly, and only if they are informed. If you think that your religious (thus, unjustified) reasoning should be accepted, you must state a *reason* for it to be a benefit. Otherwise, the ideal action is the one taken to ensure the greatest benefit to the state and the people therein.

      Might want to read up on your civics again, buddy.

    • blasphemous_kansan

      Drive by troll.

      Do not engage.

  • http://twitter.com/KevinSagui Kevin Sagui

    The thing that really burns me about this is that being straight or believing in god have no real bearing on the actual scouting experience. They really are nothing more than arbitrary membership requirements that prevent a subset of the population from partaking in an otherwise positive formative experience.

    • CDP

      Then start your own organization based on homosexuality or not believing in god or anything you want. Of course, unless it’s a leftist state of intolerance and conformity you’re itching for, such a group would likewise need to be cut off from any tax breaks.

      • http://twitter.com/KevinSagui Kevin Sagui

        Somehow, I’m not shocked that you can’t tell the difference between orientation and religion not mattering to the experience and “basing” the experience on being gay and not believing in god.

      • Baby_Raptor

        Keep projecting, bro. Nobody on the left wants to dictate how everyone else lives. That’s solidly the territory of the “small government” Right.

        • 3lemenope

          In my experience, people on a side tend to be insensitive to the ways in which their behavior mirrors their adversaries, because by categorizing them as adversaries they place substantial extra barriers to empathy. It’s so easy to see how one’s enemies threaten you, but much more difficult to see how you or your allies threaten your enemies.

          Significant portions of the coalitions on both left and right are very interested in controlling people; their behaviors, their expressions, their options, choices and lives. It is trivially easy to come up with examples of people and efforts on the left who attempt to assert control, from things as seemingly piddling as food and beverage options up to more serious issues of what one is allowed to say, or what means are available to defend oneself from an aggressor, how much freedom on has in running a business they own or in altering their own property, never mind holding on to it in the first place. I’m sure you’re familiar with just as many examples on the right; their targets of control are simply different. Each side feels they have very compelling justifications for meddling with peoples’ lives and frames them in terms of “common sense” and “obvious necessity” or fail even to see what they are attempting to do as controlling others at all (and deprecates the justifications of the other as illegitimate and overreaching and power-mad). And sometimes, those justifications are *in fact* persuasive, as we quite willingly do not live in an anarchy.

          While normally, depending on the criteria, either the left or the right are clearly the worse actors, this is one of the very few areas where I feel perfectly comfortable drawing a direct equivalency between left and right. There is no ideology in existence that successfully modulates the pure desire for control and power; it can only be constrained by structures and barriers and through opposed power.

          • Baby_Raptor

            I’m all ears for these examples you can so easily come up with. I can’t help but feel that I’m going to start hearing conspiracy theories about Michelle Obama forcing health food and environment-friendly lightbulbs on people, and the Democrats being evil for trying to dismantle the Second Amendment.

            • 3lemenope

              It’s exactly this sort of response that validates my initial point: you can’t see, for the purposes of what you support, two inches in front of your face as to how others legitimately perceive what you feel are simply common-sense policies which just happen to take away rights and options from others that they desire; i.e. literally how they live their lives.

              When the discussion becomes taking guns away from people, that’s a pretty blatant form of control. You (I’m guessing) believe it is a *justified* form of control, because the consequences in your view of not controlling it outweigh the value of preserving the choice. But you can’t seriously argue it isn’t control. You could do something before, now you can’t, and the government enforces this rule by force; it’s like a textbook example of what control is. And much of it is driven by fear of guns (some legitimate and driven by evidence, some ridiculous and driven by cultural panic), so it becomes in large part about controlling what one fears. And it isn’t “being evil” to attempt this. Your snark reveals just how little you paid attention to what I actually wrote and the point I’m making: what is to one side an encroachment on their lives is to another simply common-sense policy. It’s the *utter failure* (and to my mind, pathetic unwillingness) of either side to understand how the other sees the solutions they offer on the issue that allows, for example both CDP and you in this thread, and partisans of all stripes in general, to claim an illusory moral high ground and call the others tyrants desiring only control (while carefully avoiding looking in any mirrors).

              So when I obliquely referenced in my post things like:

              - LA’s attempt to ban fast foods or NYC’s attempt to control how much sugary beverage you can buy and sell in one sitting (“things as seemingly piddling as food and beverage options”)

              - Speech codes at many American universities (“what one is allowed to say”)

              - Gun bans and Gun control (“what means are available to defend oneself from an aggressor”)

              - Forcing businesses to take customers from protected classes (“how much freedom one has in running a business they own”)

              - Supporting Hollywood’s gutting of the first sale doctrine (“or in altering their own property”)

              -vast expansions of eminent domain that allow direct transfers of property from private owner to other private entities (“never mind holding on to it in the first place”)

              And it’s not like there aren’t perfectly defensible reasons for wanting any and all of those things. It’s just that there are also perfectly defensible reasons for being skeptical of these things. And they all are motivated by a desire to reduce people’s ability to do something they formerly could or by taking away a surety they formerly had (i.e. controlling them) in favor of some other goal. Even ones that seem very one-sided and obvious are. very. not.

              —————————

              On an entirely different note, it really kind of sucks to be proved right by you about what I wrote at the end of that last link.

              • http://twitter.com/ThundalArchsys Thundal Archsys

                “Forcing businesses to take customers from protected classes (“how much freedom one has in running a business they own”)”

                All matters concerning wealth are enforced by the state. You can’t own a business, you can only *do* business with the approval of your society and culture. This is a limitation of the function that we don’t actually apply nearly as often as we should.

                “Supporting Hollywood’s gutting of the first sale doctrine (“or in altering their own property”)”

                Er… RIAA’s a right-wing group, and most hackers are left-aligned by nature. I thought this list was problems of the left?

                Note that I actually agree with your point (that the polarization of the issues means that many fewer people actually bother to inform themselves and take a stance on the issues, and instead they pick a party and jump into “us vs. them”, but I feel that the reasoning behind the left’s control is stated, in most issues, while their opposition generally isn’t (Both side wants control, one can say why via cause and effect and desired ends, the other tends towards religion (which is a reason to discard something that must be overwritten, not a reason to keep something) and fear-mongering).

                I’m generally further left than, well, just about everyone (I’m an automation and cybernetics researcher, so I’m an advocate for resource-based economies, and am actively working to fix the logistics problems therein), so it’s very easy for me to see both sides from an outside perspective, and I go with candidates less harmful to the eventual institution of my ideas and works (especially locally, because they have weight when it comes to zoning restrictions and privacy law battles). I just generally think that the right votes against it’s best interest in many cases, because they know *what* they want, but have never analyzed *why* they want it (and if they lack reflective thinking, they might actually be incapable of such analysis, psychologically, due to the relationship between political values and IQ, etc.).

                • 3lemenope

                  On the broadest level, if one is to view the state as a sovereign-in-fact, you can do nothing whatsoever without their permission, including business as you point out. But that is precluded in practical terms by the implied structure of our actual society, in which it is intended and expected that people have a broad degree of freedom in disposing of and using productive property, so that capitalism can function. We have a structure of laws which establish “ownership” as a real and substantive concept to which the rest of the law responds.

                  The MPAA, RIAA, and other media industry groups generally get far more (and more consistent) support from Democrats in Congress than Republicans (cf. Chuck Schumer, Patrick Leahy, the *entire* southern California congressional delegation, etc. etc.). The GOP aren’t much better on those issues, but they are more tolerant of dissent on them and as a result more GOP congresscritters are skeptical of their lobbying desires and act accordingly than their counterparts. And most hackers skew libertarian more than they do anywhere on the left-right axis.

                  I just generally think that the right votes against it’s best interest in many cases, because they know *what* they want, but have never analyzed *why* they want it…

                  I think this is a fascinating statement. I tend to think that people’s assessment of others’ own best interest perplexes anyone who does not share their political and social values, and so from the outside perspective it seems as though people are voting against their interests, when it really is that they are simply prioritizing other interests that don’t make sense to their observers. And, FWIW, I’ve never seen much evidence that many people on any side of the political divide have a sense of *how* their interests would most effectively be pursued, and so often what they fight for ends up undermining what they themselves want.

                  And of course, as you allude, local politics doesn’t easily track left-right dichotomies and tends to have more direct effect on what people care about in day-to-day practical life than the less granular layers of government above them. Petty tyrants on zoning boards and city councils no know restriction of party or ideology.

          • Martha Loven

            The second amendment is about having weapons for a militia

            > A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

            If you add that to Article One of the Constitution where it says

            >To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia,

            in the powers of the legislative branch. Putting the 2 of them together, I’m guessing the founding fathers intended for the government to provide weapons for soldiers & nobody else to have them. I see no reason to believe that the gun control we currently have is unconstitutional. I also see no reason to see making it illegal for a civilian (or any off-duty non-civilian) to carry a concealed weapon or even have a weapon on them unless they’re going hunting for some wildlife. I also see no constitutional reason for banning anything more powerful then a standard hunting pistol or rifle from being in the public sector.

          • Martha Loven

            The second amendment is about having weapons for a militia

            > A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

            If you add that to Article One of the Constitution where it says

            >To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia,

            in the powers of the legislative branch. Putting the 2 of them together, I’m guessing the founding fathers intended for the government to provide weapons for soldiers & nobody else to have them. I see no reason to believe that the gun control we currently have is unconstitutional. I also see no reason to see making it illegal for a civilian (or any off-duty non-civilian) to carry a concealed weapon or even have a weapon on them unless they’re going hunting for some wildlife. I also see no constitutional reason for banning anything more powerful then a standard hunting pistol or rifle from being in the public sector.

            • 3lemenope

              The only way to come to that conclusion is to ignore “the right of the people” part of the amendment, language which is mirrored in the forth, ninth and tenth amendments and the assembly section of the first amendment. Conversely, the only way to come to the conclusion that it is only an individual right is to ignore the part you are highlighting.

              There are good arguments on either side that their emphasis should have priority, given the ambiguity of the text.

              Which is my whole point. People think they have *the* answer and then intentionally blind themselves to the converse arguments, and so discussion of the whole is never approached.

              • Martha Loven

                I did start to read the constitution. Haven’t gotten through the whole thing yet though. However, I did admit to guessing as to what the writers were intending. It’s impossible for anybody to say for sure unless they had their intention made clear someplace.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

        You guys must have spent a large fortune on straw.

      • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ Bubba Tarandfeathered

        Dude you are such a tool for fox news, just another automaton spewing out programmed responses, a machine churning out memes with no free will of its own. You are like a broken record repeating the same old song over and over never capable of skipping to something new and fresh. When you reply it will be more programmed rhetoric.You cannot escape your programming. It is hard coded into your brain matter. Reply or don’t reply either way you are incapable of an original thought, you’re just mimicking your masters.

      • Kengi

        Other scouting groups which don’t discriminate have been started. I don’t see how you equate not discriminating with intolerance. Intolerance of people who want to be intolerant?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

        I believe you are looking for Camp Quest. Which doesn’t discriminate against who is allowed to attend and so is entirely allowed to be tax-exempt. http://www.campquest.org/ .

      • PietPuk

        Troll..

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        If the Mormons and Baptists have hijacked the organization, why can’t the secularists hijack it back in the other direction?

      • TheBlackCat13

        The problem is that the BSA and GSA have a government-granted exclusive right to the term “scout” and “scouting”. Nobody can make a new organization using those terms.

      • billwald

        The Metropolitan Christian Church doesn’t sponsor Boy Scout troops? They are missing out on some good PR.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mark.pruitt.33 Mark Pruitt

      Most of this started in the early seventies, when the Mormon church became the biggest contributor to the BSA. Coincidence? I doubt it.

      • http://twitter.com/KevinSagui Kevin Sagui

        I know. It really pisses me off.

  • ortcutt

    People mistakenly believe that Roe v. Wade was the origin of the Religious Right, but the thing that actually kickstarted the Religious Right was Green v. Connally, 330 F.Supp. 1150 (D.D.C. 1970), which held the the IRS could deny tax-exempt status to an organization that discriminates on the basis of race. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court in Coit v. Green, 404 U.S. 997 (1971). The IRS then proceeded to deny tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University, which eventually resulted in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983), that the IRS could deny tax-exempt status on the basis that racial discrimination is contrary to public policy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Gf4jN1xoSo

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coit_v._Green

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Jones_University_v._United_States

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Nor would they be able to exclude girls

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-W-Busch/578120211 Michael W Busch

      The gender segregation of the scouts makes no sense. But I notice that “gender identity” is protected, but “gender” is not. So it might not follow automatically that gender segregation would be forbidden by this law.

      • TheBlackCat13

        Gender is protected, except in a list of specifically-named organizations that apparently can still discriminate based on gender I guess.

    • http://twitter.com/ThundalArchsys Thundal Archsys

      Gender identity is what one calls oneself (Boy, Girl, Man, Woman), and
      Sex is the biology thereof (male, female). They can still discriminate based on
      biological sex (can require a male) and not be able to discriminate based on gender identity (Can’t tell any male no because he wears dresses).

      I personally don’t feel that’s right, as it promotes sexism in general, but that’s how the law is written.

  • TheG

    “‘SB 323′s primary purpose is to penalize BSA based on its constitutionally protected membership policy and the values that underlie it,’ lawyers for the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom wrote in a letter to lawmakers last week.”

    Whenever I hear about a case FFRF files against a religionist group, the television report always has two elements: 1) A mention that “the suit was filed by the Wisconsin group Freedom From Religion Foundation…” and 2) an interview with the “man on the street” for his opinion about groups that come in from out of state to unfairly tell people how their community should behave.

    I guess my question is, where are the martyrbaters complaining about how an Arizona group telling Californians what their values should be?

    • Anonymous Atheist

      And they ought to be following any mention that “the suit was filed by the Wisconsin group Freedom From Religion Foundation…” with “…on behalf of concerned local citizens”.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    My city recently introduced a policy change to not give preferential rate treatment to any groups, even non-profits. There was a stink raised by the Boy Scouts, but AFAIK it didn’t go anywhere. Reminds me, I have to double check and confirm that.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I just emailed this to my California state Senator, and to my state Assemblymember:

    Dear Senator/Assemblymember ________,

    As a voter in your district, I urge you to SUPPORT SB 323 introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara. It will have its first committee hearing tomorrow, Wednesday April 10.

    Some youth groups, in particular the Boy Scouts of America practice reprehensible discrimination on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or religious affiliation. This should not be condoned by letting them be exempt from taxes that other organizations must pay. Such tax exemptions amount to a gift from me as a California taxpayer, and I should not be forced to give such a gift to an organization that would not permit me, my family, or my friends to be members because of our views about religion.

    As a private organization, the Boy Scouts has the right to practice their bigotry against any group of people they wish, but they should not benefit from tax exemptions that are in the end paid for by all the people in this state, including those who suffer from that discrimination.

    I am an atheist, and as such I’m part of a very rapidly growing part of your constituency, larger than you might realize. We are decent, moral, law-abiding citizens who are active participants in our communities. We are generally well educated, we pay careful attention to how our legislators’ actions affect us, and we vote and donate to campaigns accordingly. We are increasingly active against the widespread unjust discrimination against us that up until recently has been taken for granted. Becoming more aware of our interests and keeping our rights in mind will be a wise practice for your continued political career.

    SB 323 helps the state of California assert that it is a place of fairness and inclusion, not bigoted, divisive discrimination. Please support it.

    Sincerely,
    Richard Wade

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.pruitt.33 Mark Pruitt

    Wouldn’t this bill also force churches to start paying taxes, as they are a discriminatory non-profit organization as well?

    • TheBlackCat13

      There is a link to the bill. Please read it. It only applies to youth groups.

  • Frank

    Didn’t New Jersey try this whole applying nondiscrimination law to the boy scouts and lose? It seems to me California is just begging for a constitutional challenge.

    This post grossly misrepresents the law. Current tax law does NOT reward the BSA or anyone else for excluding atheists/gays/whoever. It rewards them for complying with the viewpoint neutral requirements for nonprofit status, such as not distributing profits to owners. This bill isn’t asking BSA to pay the standard anything, the standard tax for nonprofits is no tax. To deprive the BSA of its tax exemption in spite of its compliance with the standard requirements for nonprofit status, simply because the state of California doesn’t like their membership policy, seems like an obvious violation of the free speech clause of the first amendment, specifically freedom of expressive association.

    Put another way, if this bill is taken seriously, it seems to imply that a church that restricts its membership to its own religion would loose its tax exempt status. That can’t be right.

    If this law passes constitutional muster, then doesn’t that imply another state (perhaps Alabama) could pass a law removing tax exempt status from nonprofits that do NOT exclude gays or atheists? How could you draw a distinction between the two laws for first amendment purposes?

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      There’s a difference between Federal and State tax exemptions.

      Also, churches are a slightly more specific category. And while it might cross the establishment line to limit exemptions of churches on discriminating in membership on religion or religious views, it might be well within the power of a state to limit exemption for any of the other reasons. “The State has an affirmative policy that considers these groups as beneficial and stabilizing influences in community life and finds this classification useful, desirable, and in the public interest. Qualification for tax exemption is not perpetual or immutable; some tax exempt groups lose that status when their activities take them outside the classification and new entities can come into being and qualify for exemption.” (Walz v. NYC Tax — which is really central to any such discussion; I strongly suggest reading the opinions.)

      As to your suggestion a state could pass a law restricting tax exempt status to nonprofits that discriminate, that would seeming require first establishing that there is a rational state interest in fostering discrimination, which seems rather more difficult than showing that there is a rational state interest in fostering nondiscrimination.

    • TheBlackCat13

      This bill does not target the BSA, it changes the rules for which organizations are granted tax-exempt status. Following this change the BSA will not longer comply with the new rules, but the rules are not specific to the BSA.

  • valmir

    Just in case anyone here failed to realize it… boy-scouts is owned and operated by the Mormon church at this point in time. its REALLY a religious youth program I’ve been Mormon all my life i was in scouts almost all the other kids where Mormon with the exception of a handful of varying Catholics/baptists. But still its a christian youth program i REALLY don’t see why people don’t understand that. if your atheist do you REALLY want to join up with a Christian youth program to begin with? wouldn’t that drive you crazy? it would be like being Jewish and wanting to sign up to be a Nazi … why on earth would you want to do that?

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      The Mormon Church does not accept as members of the church people who want to continue being practicing Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. The BSA does. The BSA does not present itself as a specifically Mormon or Christian youth program. It welcomes people of all faiths with no objection. It only excludes atheists.

    • Nim

      you have a point valmir. no, as an atheist, id like to stay far away from people who voluntarily blind themselves and then hate/discriminate me. but the thing is, i also dont want such a group to be exempt from paying taxes and following legal precedence when they ARE saying i can’t join because i dont believe in your version of religion. you can have your private club of bigotry and indoctrination, or you can keep your tax-exempt status and not be such dicks about it all.

  • Highlander

    Why not do this for all non-profits not just youth groups? Why make such a distinction? Do non-youth oriented non-profits not benefit from tax free status? Such a law will only push youth oriented groups to become part of a non-youth group, such as a church, to get under their tax exempt umbrella.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      A state could present a rational basis for focusing on non-discrimination in youth-groups. Youth are particularly impressionable; prejudices fostered in childhood and adolescence tend to remain life-long. In so far as prejudices on gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, and religious affiliation are sources of social conflict (and even violent conflict, which is generally considered a compelling state interest), it makes sense to focus pressure where it will have the most impact: on the young, whose attitudes are less ossified.

      The push you posit is possible; however, the churches risk their own exemptions thereby, both under law in terms of the changed balance of the organization’s character, and in politics in terms of such move being seen as a blatant attempt to evade taxes and engage in increasingly disfavored discriminatory practices. More politically likely than outright removal would seem to be a narrowing of the exemption, using the discretion referenced in Gibbons v DC.

  • benanov

    Doesn’t this law also affect the Girl scouts, because they only allow those who identify as girls to join?

    Way to think of the consequences of the law there!

    • Louis

      The girl scouts DO allow boys to join. It doesn’t happen often but there have been boys admitted to girl scout troops.

  • Erp

    A few points,

    1) The BSA has three levels that are separately controlled and have separate tax exempt status.

    1a) The national organization headquartered in Texas which won’t be affected directly.

    1b) The local councils which receive an annual charter from the national organization; those in California would be affected. Note that some councils have two organizations for government grant/contract purposes; one for “Learning for Life” which is a school based BSA program that does not discriminate but is not considered traditional scouting (I think there has in the past been transfer of funds given/paid to Learning for Life to the traditional scouting organization) and one for the traditional program.

    1c) The third level is the local units such as troops and packs which also get annual charters. In almost all cases they have the same tax status as their chartering organization (churches, VFW, etc.). Effectively if you donate directly to a local BSA troop, you are donating to their chartering organization and in many cases these wouldn’t be classified as a youth organization and would still be tax-exempt. However some troops have a group of parents and friends who have formed a non-profit to charter the troop and/or associated pack; these would be directly affected (unfortunately I suspect these groups are most likely to be anti-discrimination and are working to change policy since they have not chosen to go under a church).

    2) I fear the ‘gender identity’ bit will hit the Girl Scouts since they do discriminate against boys identifying as boys. It might be a good idea for the Girl Scouts to admit boys identifying as boys (much like Campfire did some 30 years ago); however, I can see some problems. In the long run it might be best if BSA and GSUSA merged but not before the BSA ceases to discriminate against the godless and gays.

  • billwald

    Both sides are goofy. Atheists have less sense of humor Than Orthodox Presbyterians. All they have to say, “I worship at KFC and eat sacrificial chickens.” Right wing nut case Christians have a god who can’t defend himself.

  • Paul

    I’m surprised that you think this is brilliant. It appears to me that it’s the same section of the tax code that would not allow Jewish organizations tax exempt status if they exclude non-Jews from their organization. Or if Muslim mosques discriminate against the hiring of non-Muslim imams. Oh yes, and I almost forgot, Christian groups who hold to a certain set values in hiring practices.
    I am not right wing, although I have a hunch you might want to categorize me that way. What I have a problem with is the idea that religious values can only be respected if they meet secular criteria. And since they don’t meet your particular criteria, then they ought to be discriminated against; even if its a group that does a lot of good for our society.
    The boy scouts are not saying non-religious person’s can’t camp that they can’t form groups that do the same things as the boy scouts do. They are saying that their organization was formed with a certain set of valuues that they would like to hold on to. If excluding on the basis of these values lead to reduced health, opportunities for work, food or shelter, then I understand. Or if it promoted hatred or violence. However, this practice does not in any way reduce the rights of a non-God believer. It just says that is this organization was based on some founding principles they would like to maintain.
    I get what you’re against; it’s tired and cliche. I don’t get what you’re for.

    • TheBlackCat13

      Again, please read the bill before saying stuff like this. The bill only applies to youth groups, not to churches or any other sort of organization.

  • Paul

    . . . . sorry, one last comment. Is there no room in America for groups with different sets of values to do good work as non-profits? Can’t there be room for a range of groups holding to range of values who can obtain a non-profit status because they are doing good and not trying to profit from doing good. What about a lbgt non-profit that wants to limit membership to lgbt members because they believe that the work they do will benefit from this kind of unity. I support their right to exist and be non-profit. As I support the right to have Muslim, Sikh, Christian, hetersexual, male and female non-profits. They have a place. What does not have a place is the selective discrimination against any of these groups filing to be a non-profit and working for the common good.
    I come from Canada and I sadly watch the culture wars in my new country of citizenship. The rhetoric on both sides is extreme, polarizing and harmful to this country.


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