Judges in California can once more volunteer with the Boy Scouts.
The state’s judges had been banned since 1996 from joining groups that practice “invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or sexual orientation,” but an exemption had been carved out for the Boy Scouts.
In January, the Boy Scout exemption was ended and judges were forced to leave the Scouts. Earlier this month, the California Ethics Advisory Committee ruled that circumstances have changed.
That change was the inevitable decision by the national Scout leaders to allow openly gay men to lead Scout troops, a decision that has resulted in the drop in donations and will likely show yet another drop in membership by the end of the year.
California became the first state to issue a judicial ethics opinion since the Scouts changed their policy this summer, according to Santa Ana-based attorney Paul A. Hoffman.
The recent decision allows judges to participate in Scout troops that still discriminate but only if they discriminate on the basis of Church teachings. Though judges will be allowed to join discriminatory Church-based troops, they can do so only if “he is satfisfied the troop is an organization dedicated to the preservation of religious values of legitimate common interest to troop members.” What consitutions a “legitimate common interest” is not defined. Judges who volunteer for church-sponsored troops that still do not allow openly gay leader are warned that their “impartiality” could be called into question.
When the national Scouts decided in July that open gays would be allowed to lead troops, donations in the largest Scout council in America dropped so sharply that layoffs among 70 employees had to be instituted. As of November 15, the fall fundraising drive by the Salt Lake City Boy Scout Council was so far down that layoffs could not be avoided. The Mormon Church sponsors 427,000 Scouts through 38,000 local troops, which represents 18% of all 2.4 million Boy Scouts in the country.
The Boy Scouts experienced a drop of more than 7.4 percent in membership from 2013 to 2014 largely considered as a reaction to the policy change allowing open gay Scouts. This was on top of a 6 percent drop the year before.
Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse