Mark Pulliam whines about judgments against BSA in California.

An article written by Mark Pulliam over at the Boy Scouts of America’s Legal Issues website (originally published in the San Diego Source) on a recent judgment against the Scouts in San Diego is a classic example of someone who just doesn’t get it. The ACLU filed suit against the city of San Diego on behalf of an agnostic couple and a lesbian couple who felt it was a violation of the separation of church and state for the city to offer preferential and exclusive lease agreements to the Boy Scouts for use of a city owned park and aquatic center. The argument being that the Boy Scouts are a religious organization due to their requirement of a belief in God for membership and thus the preferential treatment the Scouts receive in the exclusive lease agreements, including an exemption from the city’s non-discrimination policy, amounted to an endorsement of religion by the city government.

Mark Pulliam isn’t too happy with this decision and has a personal stake in the issue as he is a Scouting volunteer and his two sons are Scouts as well. His article is basically a rant on how mean the ACLU is and how the Boy Scouts are a victim of religious discrimination (which is irony at its best) and so on. Here’s some excerpts from his column:

Like the Grinch who stole Christmas, the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking to prevent San Diego youth from enjoying outdoor activities at Camp Balboa and the Youth Aquatic Center, facilities run by the Boy Scouts of America on land leased from the city of San Diego.

Right off the bat he tries to paint the ACLU as just a bunch of meanies who are out to ruin the fun of San Diego’s youth by preventing them from making use of the facilities run by the BSA on city-owned land. The implication I get from that statement is that this affects all of the youth in San Diego as opposed to only those youths who are enrolled in the Boy Scouts. Considering the facts that the BSA discriminates against gays and atheists and has exclusive leases to these two areas of the park the truth is that most of San Diego’s youth are already prevented from enjoying the outdoor activities at Camp Balboa and the Youth Aquatic Center. In fact, I checked the San Diego Park & Recreation site for Balboa Park and couldn’t find anything that indicated there was open access to the areas leased by the BSA to non-members.

In June 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the ACLU in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, after a decade of harassing litigation, to uphold the Boy Scouts’ right to hold and enforce beliefs as an organization.

Harassing litigation? I would think that frivolous lawsuits would be considered harassing litigation and not something the Supreme Court would waste time on. Having been a member of the ACLU for awhile and having dealt with them on a couple of issues in the past I can certainly say that they aren’t an organization that engages in litigation purely for the purpose of harassment.

Besides that the ACLU didn’t represent Dale in his lawsuit against the Boy Scouts, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund did. But hey, why let facts get in the way when you’re trying to paint an organization with such a large brush?

Just two months later, the ACLU launched a mean-spirited lawsuit here in San Diego to remove the Boy Scouts from its long-term leases in Balboa Park and Fiesta Island. The ACLU’s newest argument is that, because the Boy Scouts profess a belief in God, they discriminate and therefore must be evicted.

In July 2003, and again in April of this year, the ACLU has convinced a federal district judge to accept its extremist position. Judge Napoleon Jones has become the first jurist in America to rule that a city must discriminate against a nonprofit organization for professing a belief in God. What would the Founding Fathers think?

Mean spirited? Extremist? Apparently Mark seems to think there’s nothing mean spirited about the BSA denying membership to gays and atheists. Way to misrepresent Judge Jones’ decision too. It was a combination of factors, not the least of which was the belief in God requirement, that resulted in the Judge’s ruling:

    Jones said the city has shown preferential treatment to the Boy Scouts, “an admittedly religious, albeit nonsectarian, and discriminatory organization,” because it had negotiated exclusively with the Scouts for the lease of the aquatics center. He said the city had failed to inform the public that the property was available for lease and invite bids from others.

What would the Founding Fathers think? I think many of them would agree with the ruling.

Judge Jones’ ruling will undoubtedly be reversed on appeal, but at great expense to the Boy Scouts—and to the taxpayers of San Diego who, through the weak-willed City Council, agreed last December to pay the ACLU nearly a million dollars in costs and fees. The Boy Scouts will have to sell a lot of popcorn to overcome the ACLU’s San Diego taxpayer-funded war chest. Only Mayor Dick Murphy and Councilman Jim Madaffer courageously voted against this bizarre settlement.

The paragraph is so full of distortions it’s not funny. Being an attorney himself you’d think Mark would be familiar with the common practice of the losing side paying the court costs and fees of the victorious side, particularly in a settlement. I wonder if he’d be complaining so much if the BSA had been victorious and the ACLU had to pay out costs? I wonder in what way Mark considers the settlement bizarre?

I must confess to a personal interest in this, as I’m an active Scouting volunteer with my two sons. I’ve stayed overnight at Camp Balboa, and last summer my son and I enjoyed a week at the Youth Aquatic Center, which was financed and built by the Scouts at no cost to the city. Using boats, instructors and equipment provided by the Scouts, the boys learned to sail, canoe, kayak and safely operate a motorboat. They swam, earned merit badges and sang songs around a campfire. They enjoyed each other and the outdoors, without television, PlayStations, MTV or Discmans.

Other than a nondenominational grace before meals, a ritual as inoffensive as the reference to God on our currency, I witnessed nothing that week that any “reasonable observer” would characterize as “religious.”

The BSA has made it clear that they consider religion important and have an agenda to promote specific values to their members that are religious in nature. Whether or not there is much in the way of overt worship at Scouting activities doesn’t change this fact. Whether or not what little rituals performed were offensive to anyone who participated was not an issue in the lawsuit.

As for the fact that the Youth Aquatic Center was financed and built by the Scouts at no cost to the city, well, considering the Scouts “leased” the land at no cost to themselves this hardly seems like much to complain about. If you build facilities on land you don’t own you run this risk of something like this happening.

Judge Jones’ ruling rests on the premise that the Boy Scouts—solely because of their belief in God—is a “religious organization,” and that by allowing the Scouts to lease city-owned land it is therefore “advancing religion” and “religious indoctrination.” On this basis, Judge Jones concluded that the lease is invalid and the Scouts must be evicted, despite the fact that the Boy Scouts invested millions of dollars in capital improvements.

Again a distortion about Judge Jones’ basis for deciding the Boy Scouts are a religious organization. Why there should be any consideration of the fact that the Scouts invested money in property they don’t own in this case is beyond me.

This position clearly amounts to intolerance of and discrimination against religious belief, an affront to the First Amendment unsupported by Supreme Court precedent. As the U.S. Department of Justice succinctly stated, “the Boy Scouts of America is not a church, and canoeing, kayaking and swimming are not religious activities.”

So it’s OK for the BSA to discriminate against others on the basis of their religious belief, but it’s not OK for others to discriminate against them on the same grounds? WTF? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, as they say. You don’t have to be a church or engage solely in religious rituals to be a religious organization.

According to the ACLU, only groups who profess “acceptable” beliefs have civil rights; those who don’t (such as the Boy Scouts) must be ostracized. For reasons that I cannot fathom, the ACLU, which zealously defends the free speech rights of reprehensible groups such as the KKK, the Nazis and the North American Man/Boy Love Association, is on a crusade against the Boy Scouts, solely because it professes a belief in God.

The ACLU has never said any such thing nor is it on a crusade against the Boy Scouts solely because it professes a belief in God. None of the three groups Mark mentions here have managed to get zero-cost land leases for parts of a public park for the exclusive use by members of their organizations as the BSA did. The ACLU’s support for those organization’s free speech rights is in no way an endorsement of what those groups say nor is the ACLU advocating that the BSA shouldn’t be allowed to express its beliefs. What they have done is opposed the preferential treatment of a religious and discriminatory organization by the San Diego government. Clearly Mark thinks you shouldn’t oppose organizations he thinks are “good” and shouldn’t stand up for organizations he feels are “bad.” In his world, Civil Rights are only for people he agrees with.

What is so important about preventing kids from enjoying what the Boy Scouts have to offer? Is the ACLU so hostile to religious belief that they would prefer to have children hanging out at the shopping mall, exposed to the influence of gangs and drugs, rather than camping, swimming and canoeing at facilities operated by the Boy Scouts? And unfortunately, inner city youth will probably suffer the most from the ACLU’s actions.

That first question would be a good one for Mark to ask the leadership of the BSA who prevent kids who are gay and/or atheist from enjoying what the Boy Scouts have to offer. The ACLU isn’t hostile to religion and has, in fact, filed lawsuits in support of religious organizations and individuals on many occasions. I’m sure the ACLU would prefer to have kids spending time camping and so on, but that doesn’t justify the BSA getting preferential governmental treatment.

I love how Mark tosses in a reference to the ever popular “inner city youth” and how badly they’ll be affected by this decision. Ignoring, again, the fact that any of those inner city kids who are gay or atheist would already be excluded from the wondrous experience that is the Boy Scouts.

This litigation must be seen for what it really is—an attempt by a vocal minority to impose its religion-free beliefs on a predominantly religious majority of Americans.

Oh how horrible that those annoying vocal minorities are standing up and insisting that the government actually live up to the rules laid down in the Bill of Rights. How dare they actually make use of the protections against “majority rule” trampling on their individual rights that our Founding Fathers put in place back when they first started this country! What gall they must have for demanding that we finally correct a long-standing abuse! But at least he’s not blaming the gays this time.

We’re not trying to impose our religion-free beliefs on the rest of you, we’re just trying to correct some of the instances where you’ve done the same in reverse for far too long.

In an Orwellian slip, Jordan Budd, the ACLU’s legal director in San Diego, reportedly said that the Boy Scouts “could resolve the issue and stay on Fiesta Island and in Balboa Park if they changed their policy,” i.e., if they abandoned their belief in God and opposition to homosexuality. The ACLU is attempting to stifle all forms of religious expression and to drive dissenters from the public square. The Boy Scouts are in the ACLU’s crosshairs today; tomorrow will it be the Salvation Army, religious charities, or your local church or synagogue? Not just the Boy Scouts, but all Americans who cherish freedom have a big stake in this fight.

That wasn’t a slip on Jordan Budd’s part nor was it particularly Orwellian (how the hell did he get THAT idea?). I’m also not sure why he should find this statement to be so terrible considering that the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts said pretty much the same thing to Eagle Scout Darrel Lambert before they decided to kick him out of Scouting for being an atheist. They gave Darrel a week to “decide in his heart” if he’s truly an atheist before they’d kick him out. In other words, all you have to do is abandon your belief on the non-existence of God and we’ll let you stay a member. Why is it OK for the BSA to suggest one of its members should change his beliefs and policies to resolve a conflict, but not OK for the same thing to be suggested to the BSA? Apparently in Mark’s world it should only go one way. Finally, Mark falls back into more popular distortions about the ACLU and their motivations. Gotta love his use of the scary slippery slope fallacy here. The BSA today! Tomorrow, your church and then they’ll be AFTER YOUR FREEDOM!!! Muhwahahahahahahahahaha!

I shouldn’t be surprised by the stunning hypocrisy, double standards, and outright reliance on scare tactics Mark engages in. He’s a lawyer after all and probably can’t help it. grin

9 thoughts on “Mark Pulliam whines about judgments against BSA in California.

  1. I agree fully with what your saying here, Les (and I say that as a former Scout and someone whose in-laws have been heavily involved in Scouting).  Scouting has every right to define their membership as they choose—indeed, it would be outrageous for someone to try to compel them to lay down their spiritual beliefs.  But they cannot have it both ways, imposing religious requirements on members and claiming to be a religious organization. 

    I have no problems with a city entering into long-term and even exclusive leases of city property for reasonable compensation (of which capital improvements on the land might be a portion).  But such leases must be open for bidding, and, from a public policy standpoint, should be for a limited duration.  Giving exclusive use of public property for the long term to an organization that is not open to all the public is not a good idea.

  2. How can an educated man possibly argue that an organization that openly discriminates against atheists and homosexuals not show bias? The very idea is laughable at best. I admit, I am not particularly fond of the BSA, but I do support their right to discriminate just as any other private organization may. I will; however, say this, as the BSA is an openly discriminatory orginzation it should not be shown any measure of government sponsorship. This includes exclusive bidding in leasing public lands.

  3. The BSA is so odd. . .  I was a scout when I was a young person. I entered scouting through the unapologetically religious Mormon youth programs, and there was never any question at all that we were a religious organization - specifically a Mormon religious organization. However, it was also understood that the BSA was the favorite child of the U.S. Goverment, deserving of any and all public support, money, or other largesse.

    In other words, the BSA invented the concept of having your cake and eating it too.

    That doesn’t make it okay, though. The BSA has had this coming for a long time and I for one am glad it’s happening.

  4. I find Mark Pulliam’s arguments that Boy Scouts isn’t a religious organization to rather laughable given that right on the BSA website under What Is Scouting? you’ll find the following:

    Specifically, the BSA endeavors to develop American citizens who are physically, mentally, and emotionally fit; have a high degree of self-reliance as evidenced in such qualities as initiative, courage, and resourcefulness; have personal values based on religious concepts; have the desire and skills to help others; understand the principles of the American social, economic, and governmental systems; are knowledgeable about and take pride in their American heritage and understand our nation’s role in the world; have a keen respect for the basic rights of all people; and are prepared to participate in and give leadership to American society.

    In all honesty it pains me to be opposed to Scouting as I had wanted to be a member when I was young myself. Our troop lasted all of three weeks before funding ran out and I never got around to trying again. I do think, overall, that it’s a positive experience for young boys and it saddens me that the organization feels the need to discriminate. The Girl Scouts changed their policies rather than exclude some girls from their organization, when will the Boy Scouts grow up? Of course the common wisdom is that boys mature slower than girls so this probably shouldn’t be unexpected.

  5. Thanks Les.  I’m already getting this crap forwarded in typical email fashion with something like following added on:

    ‘Please say a prayer and forward to everyone in your address list before you burn in hell.’

    The concept is simple. If you discriminate, you are no longer acting on behalf of the entire tax paying public and therefore cannot benefit from public aid.

    Maybe BSA should go whole hog and declare themselves as a church instead of non-profit and then they may be able to swing some more deals.

  6. Part of the difficulty is that the government owns so much land.  It has to do something with it (since it can’t possibly sell it to private organizations).  Given that, I don’t see any problem with leasing it out, but it shouldn’t give preferential treatment to any group, religious or not.

  7. Good thing I got my Eagle and got out before I came out as both gay AND atheist. Funny how things work out isn’t it?

  8. For an article slightly more objective than Pulliam’s, you might want to check out what the San Diego City Attorney has to say.
    Some highlights:

    “During the course of the case, however, and without forewarning the City as to its position, the Boy Scouts admitted in court documents that it was in fact a ‘religious organization.’”

    “The Boy Scouts have repeatedly and pointedly refused to support the City in helping to pay any of the potential attorney’s fees involved in this case. They want the City taxpayers to continue to argue the case even though they have acknowledged that they are a religious organization and even though they refuse to share in the potentially enormous attorney’s fee award that will be ultimately awarded to plaintiffs who have already prevailed in Judge Jones’ ruling noted above.”

    I have to wonder about Pulliam’s legal credentials, seeing as how he thinks that “Jones’ ruling will undoubtably be reversed on appeal”, despite his article not naming a single reversible error.

  9. I’d have to agree Flarity. I’m thinking maybe this man’s degree is written in crayon.

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