- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Supreme Court Monday decided to let stand a ruling that the Boy Scouts cannot lease city-owned park land in San Diego because the group is a religious organization.

The high court refused to hear an appeal from San Diego-area Boy Scouts who have traditionally leased space in the camp at Balboa Park camp.

U.S. District Judge Napoleon Jones Jr. ruled in 2003 that San Diego acted improperly when it leased 18 acres of camp space to the Scouts because the group is a religious organization. The judge said the lease violated federal law that prohibits the government promotion of religion.

The Boy Scouts say they have no theology and only hold the position that children should “do duty to God” to become productive citizens.

The American Civil Liberties Union had sued San Diego and the Boy Scouts in August 2000 on behalf of a lesbian couple and an agnostic couple, each with Boy Scouting-age sons. They filed the lawsuit after the City Council voted to extend the group’s 50-year lease for another 25 years.

The Boys Scouts have been the target of preferential treatment lawsuits since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2000 that the group has a constitutional right to exclude openly gay men from serving as troop leaders and because it compels members to swear an oath of duty to God.

The group had received support from the George W. Bush administration, which in March 2004 filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that even though the organization believes in God and members take an oath to do their duty to God, it is not a religious organization.

In other rulings issued Monday:

c The court ruled that the family of a now-deceased immigrant who was denied medical care for cancer while in custody cannot sue federal medical officials for damages.

The law clearly states that the federal government, not individual federal medical personnel, must be the defendant in lawsuits arising out of claims of harm by federal employees during the course of their official duties, the high court ruled in an unanimous decision.

“We are required … to read the statute according to its text,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for a unanimous court.

c The court also turned away an appeal from Delaware to expand its sports betting lottery beyond professional football.

The justices issued no comment Monday in leaving in place a federal appeals court ruling that limits sports betting in Delaware to multigame, or “parlay,” bets on National Football League games.

The professional sports leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association sued the state over its plan to boost revenue by offering single-game bets on a variety of professional and amateur events in the new sports lottery.

The lawsuit asserted the betting would violate a 1992 federal ban on such wagering, and the federal appeals court in Philadelphia agreed.

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