California Senate panel targets tax-exempt status of Boy Scouts

April 10, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy

A state Senate committee recommended Wednesday that California revoke the tax-exempt status of nonprofit groups including the Boy Scouts of America that do not allow gays and transsexuals to become members.

The Senate Governance and Finance Committee voted 5-2 along party lines, with Republicans in opposition, to approve the measure by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), even as one official from the Boy Scouts signaled that a change in policy may be in the works..

"The Boy Scouts provide a critical service for our youth," Lara told the committee. "But all we’re saying is that everybody should have the  opportunity to participate in such a great organization." The bill next goes to the Appropriations Committee. Passage requires a two-thirds vote on the Senate floor.

Lara said that by providing exemptions to state income and sales taxes, Californians are financially supporting nonprofit organizations. "Are we in California in the business of paying for discrimination?" Lara asked his colleagues. "I don’t think we are."

Passage of the bill would be a financial blow to local scouting groups that raise money through events such as Christmas tree sales, according to Rick Cronk, a past president of the Boy Scouts of America who serves on the executive committee of the organization.

"You are talking about taxing revenue that is very important to the local scout troop or pack," Cronk told the committee.

At the same time, Cronk said there may be hundreds of thousands of gay scouts and leaders and the organization "embraces this community." He said a policy change is being considered. The Scouts' National Council is scheduled to meet next month in Texas to discuss the issue.

"I think the process has begun and I think it will end up where it should end up," Cronk said. "When Scouting tries to renavigate it takes a while, and Scouting is in the process of doing that."


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