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San Diego Can Give Boy Scouts a Break on Rent

By Robyn Hagan Cain on December 21, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that it's okay for the City of San Diego to lease land to the Boy Scouts at a cheap rate despite the group's discriminatory membership policies, Thomson Reuters News & Insight reports.

The Boy Scouts prohibit atheists, agnostics and homosexuals from becoming members — a policy the Supreme Court upheld in 2000.

The Desert Pacific Council, a nonprofit corporation chartered by the Boy Scouts of America, probably gets the best rental rate in town from the City of San Diego: The Council pays $1 per year to rent Camp Balboa in Balboa Park and no rent for its Youth Aquatic Center property on Fiesta Island in Mission Bay Park. In return, the Council operates Camp Balboa and the Youth Aquatic Center, which are public facilities.

A group of plaintiffs -- who all identify as either lesbians or agnostics -- sued to enjoin the low-rent policy, claiming that they would use the land or facilities leased by the Desert Pacific Council but for the Boy Scouts' discriminatory policies. They asserted that the Council's leases violate provisions of the California or federal Constitutions relating to the Establishment of Religion or the denial of Equal Protection of the Laws, as well as the San Diego Human Dignity Ordinance.

The three-judge panel disagreed, holding that the leases constitute -- at most -- indirect or incidental aid by the City for a religious purpose, and the aid does not otherwise violate the requirements established by the Supreme Court of California to avoid invalidity under the No Aid Clause. The panel also concluded that the leases don't violate California's No Preference Clause or the federal Establishment Clause.

The plaintiffs are reviewing the court's opinion and considering their options for additional appeals, Thomson Reuters reports.

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