WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Justice Department will submit a brief today in federal court in San Diego in support of the Boy Scouts of America. The brief argues that the Boy Scouts are not a religious organization, and that its operation of a facility on city-owned property does not violate the Constitution’s prohibition on the establishment of religion.
The Justice Departmentâ€™s friend-of-the-court brief, will be submitted to the U.S. District Court in San Diego. The brief was filed in an ongoing federal lawsuit against the city of San Diego, challenging a lease under which the Boy Scouts built an aquatic center on Fiesta Island for swimming, canoeing, kayaking and other water sports. In exchange for being able to reserve the facility for its own activities, the Boy Scouts agreed to invest more than $1.5 million to develop the center, pay all its operating costs and keep it open for use by the general public.
â€œQuite simply, the Boy Scouts of America is not a church, and canoeing, kayaking and swimming are not religious activities,â€ said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. â€œBoy Scouts should not be prohibited from using public lands on an equal basis with other youth groups.â€
The original lawsuit, Barnes-Wallace v. Boy Scouts of America, filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego by six San Diego residents, sought to bar the Boy Scouts from using the facility along with a similar one in San Diegoâ€™s Balboa Park, alleging that the Constitution forbade the practice on the ground that the Boy Scouts is a religious institution.
The Departmentâ€™s brief makes clear that the Boy Scouts is not a religious institution, but rather achieves its objectives of developing good character, citizenship, and personal fitness in young boys by focusing on a vigorous program of outdoor activities. Additionally, the brief argues that because more than 100 other non-profit organizations have similar leases with the city of San Diego to operate city-property for the public benefit, the Boy Scoutâ€™s Fiesta Island lease cannot be constitutionally prohibited. Other groups with similar leases, which have not been challenged, include the Girl Scouts of America, the Boys and Girls Club of San Diego, and several Little League organizations.
A copy of the Departmentâ€™s brief can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/religdisc/boyscouts.pdf.