Court Rejects Atheist's Claim Over Boy Scouts

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Tuesday from an atheist father over Boy Scout recruiting at his son's public school.

John Scalise had asked the court to bar public schools from opening their doors to Boy Scout recruiters and promoting membership, arguing that the group discriminates against nonreligious boys and parents by denying them membership if they don't swear to religious oaths.

Scalise's dispute with the Scouts dates back to 1998, when his son was a third-grader in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

He claims he and his son were barred from a Scout program at the elementary school because they would not pledge "to do my duty to God and my country." They are nonreligious Humanists.

Michigan courts ruled that the school-Scout partnership did not advance religion in violation of constitutional dictates.

Attorneys for the Scouts and Mount Pleasant school system told justices that the appeal was frivolous.

A Michigan appeals court said that Mount Pleasant schools allowed other organizations to use class facilities, including a hospital group, an Indian tribe, a Baptist church, and a hockey association.

Scalise argued that his son, Benjamin, was taunted by classmates and humiliated by a Boy Scout recruiter in front of other students. Benjamin Scalise is now 17.

The Supreme Court's last Boy Scout case was in 2000. Justices ruled 5-4 at the time that the Boy Scouts can bar gays from serving as troop leaders. The ruling was written by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who died last year.

Scalise's attorney, Timothy Taylor of Mount Pleasant, said taxpayer-funded schools are too cozy with the Boy Scouts.

"It's going on all over the country and has been for decades," he said.

The case is Scalise v. Boy Scouts of America, 05-1260.