Here is a related story, this time in Oregon.
Court of Appeals backs atheist mother in Boy Scouts case
By CHARLES E. BEGGS
Associated Press Writer
SALEM, Ore. - The state Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday there is "substantial evidence" that the Portland School District illegally discriminated against an atheist student by allowing in-school recruiting by the Boy Scouts.
The 6-3 decision is the latest development in a long-running battle by an atheist mother to prevent the Boy Scouts from recruiting in Portland schools because the organization requires a belief in God.
The new ruling sends the case back to the state school superintendent for conciliation efforts to resolve the dispute. The district, meanwhile, is considering adopting a policy that could ban Scouts from recruiting during school hours.
The controversy began in 1996, when Nancy Powell, an atheist, objected to Boy Scout recruiting visits to an elementary school attended by her son, Remington, who is now in high school.
Nancy Powell sued the school district in 1998, claiming that because the Scout oath and principles require a belief in God, the recruiting violated the Oregon Constitution's ban on government involvement with religion.
The appeals court in 2002 ruled in the school district's favor, saying the recruiting did not amount to an "unconstitutionally excessive entanglement of government with religion."
The state Supreme Court let the lower court decision stand by refusing to review it.
The Court of Appeals' decision Wednesday came in a separate lawsuit brought by Powell under a state statute forbidding public schools from discriminating based on religion.
Former State School Superintendent Stan Bunn concluded that there was no solid evidence of discrimination, but the appeals court disagreed in a ruling upholding Multnomah County Circuit Judge Ellen Rosenblum.
"There is substantial evidence that, by giving the Scouts the access that it does, the district treats those students who are eligible to join the Scouts differently from those who are not," the appeals court said.
The court said while all students have been required to listen to an introductory presentation, "only the students who meet a religious test may accept the invitation to join."
That amounts to substantial evidence, the court said, that the district "subjects persons to differentiated treatment in a school activity on the ground of religion."
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)