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Legislators Ask for Reversal of Boy Scout Ruling : Law: Local politicians join in urging the state Supreme Court to keep government out of a battle between atheist brothers and club leaders who sought to exclude them.

October 20, 1995|ANNA CEKOLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Conservative Orange County politicians have filed a brief with the state's highest court, saying government has no business getting involved in a local Boy Scout Council's battle to exclude twins who refused to acknowledge a belief in God.

The brief, filed by the United State Justice Foundation on behalf of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) and state Senate Republican Leader Rob Hurtt, (R-Garden Grove), among others, asks the court to protect nonprofit groups from interference with the rights of private individuals to associate together.

The state Supreme Court in June, 1994, granted review to cases brought by Anaheim Hills brothers Michael and William Randall and by a former Eagle Scout that will decide whether the Boy Scouts can exclude atheists and gays.

Attorney James V. Lacy contends in the brief that Orange County courts erred in determining the scouting council was a business, and therefore bound by the state Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of religion and other factors.

The attorney argued that the court decisions have transformed the Unruh Act "into a tool to force membership and religious organizations to accept judicially mandated beliefs at the expense of their First Amendment rights."

Attorney James G. Randall, who is representing his sons in the case, said he's not surprised by the brief and believes it shows the Boy Scouts Council is not a private organization, as its leaders contend.

"It clearly shows to us that this is a public organization, with a public purpose and with such public magnitude that it affects people in the U.S. Congress," he said. "This doesn't happen to the local bridge club."

Meanwhile, as the court battle continues, Randall said his sons, now 14, have achieved rank of "First Class Scouts" as members of a Tustin scouting group and "want to be Eagle Scouts so bad they can taste it."

"They're thoroughly enjoying themselves and having a great time," he said. "Life goes on. Nobody has dropped out because of them."

The court battle dates back to early 1991 when the Randall family filed suit, shortly after the twins were ousted from an Anaheim Hills Cub Scout pack for refusing to swear an oath to God. The boys argued that their First Amendment religious rights were being violated by the organization.

Scouting officials, however, contended that their constitutional rights of freedom of association were being denied. They said allowing atheists in the Scouts would undermine the founding principles of the organization.

In 1992, Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard O. Frazee Sr. ruled that the boys could remain in the Scouts. The 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana in 1994 upheld the ruling, prompting an appeal by the Orange County Council Boy Scouts of America to the Supreme Court.

State senators Ray Haynes (R-Riverside), Ross Johnson (R-Newport Beach), John R. Lewis (R-Orange) and state Assembly members Barbara Alby (R-Fair Oaks) and Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside) also joined in the brief in support of the local Boy Scouts council. The high court has yet to say if it will hear oral arguments in the case.

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