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California to consider banning judges affiliated with Boy Scouts

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If the California Supreme Court Advisory Committee on The Code of Judicial Ethics has its way, members of the Boy Scouts will not be allowed to serve as judges, the Daily Caller reported Monday. The reason, according to the Daily Caller, is that the Boy Scouts does not allow gay scout leaders.

The committee, Patrick Howley said, has proposed to classify the BSA as a group that practices “invidious discrimination” against gays, ending the group’s exemption to anti-discriminatory ethics rules. If adopted, the new classification would prohibit judges from being affiliated with the group.

“The Committee’s invitation ignores the fact that the change also encompasses other youth organizations whose membership is limited on the basis of gender, e.g., the Girl Scouts, as well as the military, which continues to practice ‘discrimination’ on the basis of gender,” Catherine Short, legal director of the pro-life group Life Legal Defense Foundation, wrote in a letter to the committee.

She also predicted possible implications for judges who oppose abortion, and warned of a climate of intolerance in the future. Short also argued that the recommendation is nothing more than an attempt to silence one political point of view.

“This proposed amendment has as its overtly-stated purpose the branding of the BSA as an organization whose members must be assumed to be biased and thus unfit for the bench. The Committee states that ‘eliminating the exemption… would enhance public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary,’” she said.

Short disagreed, saying the rule would effectively tell judges what they are allowed to think while punishing those who do not hold a politically-correct point of view. The end result would be a hostile court that is hardly impartial.

“On the contrary, by promoting a hierarchy of politically-favored ‘victim’ status through pointlessly impugning the integrity of members of a venerable American institution, the proposed Amendment will communicate to the public that judges are being told by the California Supreme Court what to think, whom they may associate with, and what are permissible opinions to hold, and that only those who toe the line will be allowed to sit on the bench," she added. "The public can hardly expect impartiality from the judiciary in such a climate of intolerance.”

In February, the LA Times said the court banned judges from belonging to groups that allegedly discriminate against gays in 1996, but made an exception for organizations like the Boy Scouts. The exemption was granted to accommodate judges who serve as troop leaders, the Times added.

Efforts were made to change that policy in 2003, but those attempts failed. Judges, however, were advised to disclose their membership if questions arose regarding their impartiality.

The committee sought comments from the public, the Times said. The public comment period closed on April 15. The Supreme Court will consider the recommendation, which, if approved, would go into effect in August.

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