Challenging the Discriminatory Practices of the Boy Scouts of America

By Downey, Margaret | The Humanist, November 1999 | Go to article overview

Challenging the Discriminatory Practices of the Boy Scouts of America


Downey, Margaret, The Humanist


In December 1992, nearly seven years ago, I filed discrimination complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) against the Chester County Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for rejecting the applications of my son, Matthew Schottmiller, and myself. Matthew, then fourteen years of age, had attempted to reinstate his Boy Scout membership; he'd previously been active in Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops in two states over a seven-year period. At the same time, I had applied to become a BSA adult volunteer. On the forms provided, we'd each crossed off the word God in the BSA's "Declaration of Religious Principle." Such honest clarification of our philosophical views was, in the eyes of BSA officials, enough to disqualify us. For we were told outright that it was necessary to "acknowledge the existence of God as a condition of becoming a Boy Scout or an adult volunteer."

After filing our complaint, matters in Margaret Downey-Schottmiller v. Chester County Council of the Boy Scouts of America progressed slowly, with the BSA denying that its discrimination against nontheists was unlawful. The BSA argued that membership in the organization was "not an accommodation, advantage, or privilege of a public accommodation" and emphasized that "the Boy Scouts are distinctly private" within the meaning of the law. Thus, the BSA held that it could enforce its rule "that all persons seeking youth or adult membership must agree to observe the Scout Oath and Scout Law," each of which includes reference to God. We, on the other hand, argued that, pursuant to its federal charter and bylaws, the BSA is mandated to make Scouting available to all boys who meet entrance age requirements--irrespective of race, religion, or ethnic origin.

Finally, on January 18, 1996, the PHRC issued a Finding of Probable Cause. The commission concluded:

   Probable cause exists to credit the Complainant allegations that both she
   and her minor son were unlawfully 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 BSA was then ordered to immediately advise us of our 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 nonetheless 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. (By then, however, my son had turned eighteen, making him too old to continue as either a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout; only the Explorer and adult volunteer programs cover young people his age.)

Did the BSA comply? No. Three more years passed as the organization stood in opposition to the ruling and refused to cooperate with any conciliation negotiations. This culminated in a pre-hearing conference on January 20, 1999, at which the PHRC determined that its only recourse was to take the BSA to the next phase of forced compliance: a public hearing.

That hearing was held this past May but, unfortunately, we didn't prevail. On June 28, the decision of the full commission was seven to two against us. Our complaint was dismissed and the BSA was declared a private organization not subject to the anti-discrimination laws of Pennsylvania. Since then, however, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has taken up our cause and we have filed an appeal.

Similar results have occurred elsewhere. Randall v. Boy Scouts of America failed to prove that the BSA was a business subject to the Unruh Act, a California anti-discrimination law. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Challenging the Discriminatory Practices of the Boy Scouts of America
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.