Friday, May 8, 2009

Boy Scouts Hurt Lesbian's Feelings, Lesbians Sue

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is at it again. According to World Net Daily, the Boy Scouts of America faces the prospect of being banned from facilities in which it had invested millions of dollars in funds. World Net Daily summarises the case as follows.

"At issue in the case are leases from the city of San Diego allowing the San Diego Boy Scouts to build and operate campgrounds and an aquatic center on city property for their use and that of the public.

"Lesbian and agnostic couples who had never visited the facilities sued the Scouts on a claim that they felt offended by the fact that the city leases the public property to a 'morally straight' organization such as the Boy Scouts," the public interest legal groups said. "There were no religious symbols at the facilities."

I am trying very hard to understand this. First, the Boy Scouts have leased 16 acres of land from the city of San Diego. Many other groups have done so. The Boy Scouts had leased 16 acres since 1957. They leased another half acre parcel since 1987 for use as an aquatic centre. They invested 1.7 million dollars in improvements on the campground and 2,5 million dollars in the aquatic centre. Now a group of lesbian and agnostic couples is suing because their feelings were hurt, not as a result of a specific act or experience but because they are offended by the stated beliefs of the Boy Scouts. The oath of a Boy Scout is apparently offensive to both agnostics and homosexuals with it s pledge to "do my duty to G-d and country," as well as pledges to keep "morally straight." Some people have trouble with that.

What is the legal doctrine that is propelling this dubious law suit? According to WND, it is the "permission legal standing rule" which permits an uninvolved party to take offense through litigation because of their displeasure with a group's beliefs. It is now possible to pick up your Yellow Pages and look for an organisation whose beliefs offend you. You can then google the organisation, find out what charitable works they perform and take offense through litigation. It used to be that you had to cite a specific incident which constituted an abridgement of your civil rights. Now, you need only say that your feelings were hurt by the organisation in question. That is what the outraged agnostics and lesbians of San Diego have done. in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Fortunately, The Thomas More Legal Defense fund and the Alliance Defense fund have joined forces with the Boy Scouts to safeguard a minimum of judicial sanity in this strategic legal battle. The "permission ideological standing" rule is a double edged sword. It can be used by anyone who claims offense, even if they have observed nothing. ADF legal counsel Dale Schowengerdt summarises the constitutional perils as follows

"Groups such as the Boy Scouts shouldn't be penalized for their beliefs, and neither should the communities that benefit from their selfless work," said ADF Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt. "The Boy Scouts of America spent millions of dollars to improve portions of two public parks that it leased from the city for a nominal fee. The Scouts allowed the public to have full access to the parks, yet two couples filed suit simply because they didn’t like the beliefs of the Scouts organization. These types of ridiculous 'offended observer' types of lawsuits should no longer be tolerated."

It is especially critical in a time of economic crisis that frivolous lawsuits should not hamper the good works of private organisations. The United States has been built by a diverse assortment of individuals and groups with beliefs that are often mutually exclusive. Part of the battle for the hearts and minds of Americans is waged by those who do good works in the name of their faith or cause. Universities, hospitals and recreational facilities are enriched by this healthy competition in which gays and lesbians have also taken part. The public is enriched by this healthy competition, in which all win. This entire process which spurs individuals and groups to more extravagant acts of altruism is threatened by the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

There is no shortage of opportunities to be offended.

Jews do not recognise the divinity of Jesus. Shall Christians take legal offense?

Some Christians believe that you must be baptised to be saved. Should they be sued by Jewish organisations?

Shall Muslims take offense to stores that sell pork products for offending them with the sight of that which is forbidden to them?

What about Hindus? Will they sue someone who says "Holy Cow?"

Homosexuals refer to heterosexuals as "breeders". Should I sue someone because I allege offense at this "epithet?"

Shall I sue the National Basketball Association? I am a short, overweight white guy. I feel excluded. Instead of dribbling a basketball I am dribbling the keyboard on my laptop. As I hit the "SEND" button at the bottom of the page, I pretend that I am shooting a basket. But instead of millions of fans watching me from coast to coast, I have to satisfy myself with a couple hundred hits a day. I dream of doing product endorsements for sweat pants, beer and smoked almonds. But no one calls. I think I will sue the NBA. They've hurt my self esteem. I deserve a chance. I know I could make the grade. I could shoot lots of baskets. I might need a rifle to do it but I could still shoot plenty of baskets. So please. Do something. The NBA hurt my feelings. Someone's gotta pay. And I wanna collect.

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