Boy Scout decision disappoints LDS Church

The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear an appeal by the Boy Scouts of America over the organization's exclusion from a Connecticut fund-raising program, a disappointment for the LDS Church, the nation's largest religious sponsor of Scouting.

The high court's action lets stand a ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the exclusion of the Scouts from sharing in program donations under a Connecticut law that prohibits discrimination or the sanctioning of discrimination by the state based on sexual orientation.

The Scouts bar homosexuals from being members, volunteer leaders or employees.

"The court's refusal to consider this case was not unexpected, given how few cases the Supreme Court takes each term," said Von G. Keetch, a Salt Lake City lawyer who helped write a friend-of-the-court brief for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). "Nevertheless, the church continues to strongly support the constitutional right of the Boy Scouts to determine its own membership and leadership policies without government interference and penalty."

Joining the LDS Church in the brief supporting the Scouts were the General Commission on United Methodist Men of the United Methodist Church and the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, the churches that are the second- and third-largest religious sponsors of the BSA. The Mormons sponsor more than 399,000 Scouts at more than 34,000 units nationwide; the Methodists, more than 397,000 Scouts at 12,000 units; and the Catholics, about 332,000 Scouts at 9,700 units.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff joined four of his counterparts in a separate friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to side with the Boy Scouts, which said the exclusion violated their First Amendment rights.

Connecticut raises money for charities each year from state employees through a payroll deduction program. In 1999, the executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities raised concerns that allowing the BSA to participate in the program put the state in violation of its Gay Rights Law. The commission agreed and the State Employee Campaign Committee dropped the Scouts from its list of beneficiaries in 2000.