Issue: Freedom of Association

Freedom of association is under assault by organizations that ignore the First Amendment, and who think governments should have the power to tell citizens, in their private lives, who they should and shouldn’t associate with.

Over the past decade, the Boy Scouts of America have been served with ACLU lawsuits and have suffered financial cuts, public partnership cancellations, and facility evictions. They have been ridiculed in the media and castigated as bigots in once-friendly corners. Why? Because a very vocal minority of atheists and homosexual activists objects to the Boy Scout Oath "to do my duty to God" and to keep "morally straight." From the fight to save Scout camps in the parks of San Diego, to the case for free association at the U.S. Supreme Court, from battling political correctness in a Connecticut state charity to pursuing equal access for the Scouts in a Berkeley public marina, the ACRU has stood by the Boy Scouts and will continue to do so.

Center for the Freedom of Association

ACRU Court Activity

Boy Scouts of America v. Barnes-Wallace

The City of San Diego has long leased two properties to the San Diego unit of the Boy Scouts of America in return for the construction, operation and maintenance of youth recreational facilities. The Scouts have spent millions on the...

Barnes-Wallace v. BSA, City of San Diego and BSA Desert Pacific Council

This case involves whether use by the Scouts of Balboa Park and Fiesta Island in San Diego under a long term lease with the city amounts to an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The District Court ruled it did. Oral arguments...

Boy Scouts of America and Connecticut Rivers Council, BSA v. Wyman et al

In this case the Boy Scouts sued because the state of Connecticut excluded them from the combined charitable campaign for state employees on the grounds that the Scouts were a discriminatory organization. ACRU and other groups petitioned the United States...

Evans v. City of Berkeley

Denial of the Sea Scouts’ right to free berthing of its vessels as accorded other non-profit groups. Decided by California State Supreme Court on March 9, 2006, against ACRU’s position. Plaintiffs and the ACRU petitioned the United States Supreme Court...

Rumsfeld vs. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights

Decided by the United States Supreme Court on March 6, 2006, in favor of ACRU’s position. In this case the Supreme Court held that the Federal government has the power to condition Federal educational aid on maintenance of equal access...

Winkler v. Rumsfeld

This case involves whether use by the Scouts of a military base for their national Jamboree involves an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The District Court held that it does. Oral arguments were heard on the case in April of 2006,...

Boy Scouts of America and Monmouth Council, BSA v. Dale

Decided by the United States Supreme Court on June 28, 2000, in favor of ACRU’s position. This case involved the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court holding that the Scouts could not be forced to retain openly gay adult scout...

News & Commentary

02/ 3/14: Obama Liberals Expand Government to Fill Hole Left by Declining Morals

This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published January 31, 2014 on The Washington Times website. The trouble with liberals is not just that they eventually run out of other people's money, as Margaret Thatcher observed. It's that...

01/29/14: For Democrats, Scorched-Earth Politics is War by Other Means

This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published January 24, 2014 on The Washington Times website. On Thursday, the FBI announced an indictment of Dinesh D'Souza, maker of the hit documentary "2016: Obama's America," in what appears to...

09/ 6/13: Touchy Topics

This column by ACRU Policy Board Member and Professor of Economics Dr. Walter E. Williams was published September 4, 2013 on Townhall.com. Here's a question: What is the true test of one's commitment to freedom of expression? Is it when...

08/29/11: Obama's War on the Secret Ballot

This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell and Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute was published August 28, 2011 on The Huffington Post. The Obama Administration has fired its opening salvo against a cornerstone of democracy: the right to...

07/20/10: Warren Cole Smith: Scout's Honor

On July, 2010 Warren Cole Smith wrote an article appearing on WorldMag.com. In northern New Mexico, The Boy Scouts of America own the largest youth camp in the world. Philmont Scout Ranch covers 137,000 acres in the Sangre de Cristo...

06/24/10: Boy Scouts Win in Philly Over Gay Ban

The American Civil Rights Union is extremely pleased with the June 23rd unanimous jury decision in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in favor of the Boy Scouts of America's Cradle of Liberty Council in their...

05/ 8/10: Robert Knight: Court puts Boy Scouts in a moral quandary

ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight wrote this column appearing on WashingtonTimes.com on May 7, 2010. Which of America's Founders could have foreseen a federal judge in 2003 kicking the Boy Scouts out of San Diego's Balboa Park, where the Scouts...

02/ 9/10: Hans Zeiger: A Century of Scouting

This column originally appeared on the Seattle Times website on February 9, 2010. The Pacific Northwest was a great place to be a Boy Scout. It meant summer camp on the Olympic Peninsula, ocean camp at Ocean Shores, treks through...

01/27/10: Hans Zeiger: Partners for God and Country

Cameron Lefler lives his life according to the Boy Scout motto: "Be prepared." "Two of the most powerful words to live by," says Lefler, whose résumé includes going into battle as a Marine, saving lives and keeping order as a sheriff's department patrol sergeant, being a husband and father, and volunteering as an adult leader for Boy Scout Troop 174 of Puyallup, Wash. – the troop he belonged to as a boy.

03/27/08: Ken Blackwell: A Scout is Reverent

The presidential candidates need to speak out while the spotlight is on Pennsylvania. There is an opportunity for voters in Pennsylvania and across America to know where the candidates stand on an important constitutional issue.

01/22/08: Hans Zeiger: Philly's Cold Shoulder

The youth of Philadelphia are in danger. Nearly 112,000 children -- over 30 percent of children in the city -- live beneath the poverty line. There are as many as 3,900 homeless families in Philadelphia. Only about half of Philadelphia ninth-graders graduate from high school within four years, and last year's state standardized math and reading tests came back to 11th graders in Philadelphia public schools with 70 percent of scores below proficient. In 2006, 1,030 young Philadelphians between the ages of 7 and 24 were shot; 179 kids were murdered.

11/20/07: Robert Knight: Thuggery Against Philadelphia Boy Scouts

The Washington Post this week stepped delicately around the thuggish tactics employed by Philadelphia City Solicitor Romulo Diaz, who has engineered a coup against the Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

10/26/07: Hans Zeiger: Punishment Will Hurt Community

Almost 80 years ago, the City of Philadelphia granted to the local Boy Scouts a low-cost rent on land at 22d and Winter Streets, "in perpetuity." This has proven to be a valuable partnership, both for the city and for its most important youth organization. But last week, the city penalized the Boy Scouts for its membership policies by raising the rent from $1 to $200,000 a year. This was wrong.

10/24/07: Hans Zeiger: The Penalty for Being a Boy Scout

To be a Boy Scout in the twenty-first century entails some consequences. It means that you may not get funding from the United Way. It means that you cannot have summer camp in a city park (as a federal judge has told the Scouts in San Diego). It means that your troop cannot be sponsored by a public school (lest your school be sued by the ACLU). It means that you will get booed at a national political convention (the party starts with the letter D). It means that you will be compared with the Taliban, which the Philadelphia Daily News did a few years ago.

04/ 5/07: Boy Scout Jamboree OK with Court; Stunning Defeat for ACLU, Victory for Scouts

On April 4, the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit dismissed the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to stop the Defense Department from allowing the Boy Scouts of America to hold their National Jamboree every four years at Fort A.P. Hill in Fredericksburg, Virginia...

09/11/06: American Civil Rights Union Defends Berkeley Sea Scouts

The American Civil Rights Union joined with former California state Attorney General and now Congressman Dan Lungren to file a friend of the court brief today in the United States Supreme Court in support of the Sea Scouts in Berkeley, California. The Sea Scouts are a subdivision of the national Boy Scouts of America.

More Information

09/11/07: Second Open Letter to the Guilford County School Board

Below is the text of my follow-up letter on behalf of the American Civil Rights Union to the Guilford County School Board of North Carolina. (My first letter, dated August 27, 2007, may be found here.) September 10, 2007 Dear...

08/28/07: Open Letter to the Guilford County School Board

Below is the text of my letter on behalf of the American Civil Rights Union to the Guilford County School Board of North Carolina, in response to their plans to suppress the recruiting efforts and meetings of the Boy Scouts...

06/ 9/07: Indiana United Way Cuts Off Scouts

In what has become increasingly common tactic, the St. Joseph County United Way in Indiana has cut off funding the Scouts because Scouting no longer meets the new criteria for funding programs. The United Way has decided to focus on...

06/ 6/07: Philadelphia City Council Votes to Charge Scouts

Without any prior notification, the Philadelphia City Council voted 16-1 on May 31st to authorize the city to end the lease with the Cradle of Liberty Scout Council for the headquarters building the city has leased to the Scouts since...

06/ 5/07: Demonstrators Protest at Scout National Meeting

Protesters, including some in Scout uniforms, organized by the homosexual activist organization Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) demonstrated outside the Scouts' national meeting in Atlanta. They were demanding that the Scouts change their policy on excluding openly...

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