The government intervened on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America in a federal lawsuit over whether the Scouts should be evicted from a San Diego park because the group discriminates against atheists and gays. The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division submitted a friend-of-the-court brief Thursday supporting the Scouts in a four-year-long court fight over the Scouts' lease on Fiesta Island, a public park at which the organization runs a youth aquatic center. "Quite simply, the Boy Scouts of America is not a church, and canoeing, kayaking, and swimming are not religious activities," said R. Alexander Acosta, assistant attorney general for the division. "Boy Scouts should not be prohibited from using public lands on an equal basis with other youth groups."
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Scouts' local council and the city of San Diego, contending the Scouts should be evicted. "It is sadly ironic that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of
Justice--which in the '50s and '60s fought on behalf of civil rights for African-Americans--has today come in on the side of an organization that proudly and openly discriminates against people on the basis of their religious nonbelief or their sexual orientation," ACLU attorney M. Andrew Woodmansee
said. Both sides are scheduled to present arguments in the case next month.
A San Diego-area Boy Scouts spokeswoman, Merrilee Boyack, welcomed the government's intervention. "They consider this a case of nationwide importance," Boyack said. "This is a case where a city government is trying to single out the Boy Scouts because we are a group of people that believe in God." In January the city agreed to pay the ACLU $950,000 in court costs and to ask a federal judge to void another park lease held by the Boy Scouts.