Father Sues Scouts for Expelling Twin Sons : Litigation: The Cub Scouts refused to say word <i> God</i> in Scout’s oath. Attorney parent says Constitution guarantees freedom <i> from </i> religion.
Michael and William Randall cut their teeth on political protest in the first grade: They refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
Three years later, the 9-year-old twins stand expelled from their Cub Scout pack for refusing to say the word God in the Scout’s oath.
Now their father, attorney James Grafton Randall, has filed a civil rights lawsuit on their behalf against the Orange County chapter of the Boy Scouts of America. The Randalls argue that the Constitution guarantees not just freedom of religion but also freedom from religion--even for Cub Scouts.
“People should be able to believe whatever they want, or they don’t have to believe anything at all,” Michael declared.
His father argues that the Boy Scouts were founded as a patriotic--not a religious--organization and should be barred from discriminating against nonbelievers under the state public accommodations law.
The attorney for the Boy Scouts, George A. Davidson of New York, said the Scouts are a private membership organization. As such, the group is entitled to maintain its policies under the First Amendment right to freedom of association, he said.
Belief in God is mandatory for a Boy Scout, Davidson said, although the organization does not dictate which god a Scout should worship.
“Nobody has excluded the Randall boys from Cub Scouting,” Davidson said. “They have elected to exclude themselves by refusing to accept the values on which Cub Scouting is based.”
Nationwide, the Boy Scouts of America has been targeted in two similar anti-discrimination lawsuits.
In a suit now pending in federal court in Chicago, Elliott Welsh alleges that his 7-year-old son was not permitted to join the Cub Scouts after refusing to sign a statement of reverence for God. In Los Angeles, closing arguments were delivered last week in the case of former Eagle Scout Timothy Curran, who was barred from being a troop leader because he is gay.
In the case of the Randall boys, William and Michael joined the Cub Scouts in Culver City three years ago. Their trouble began with the Cub Scout pledge:
“I . . . promise to do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people, and to obey the Law of the Pack.”
In an interview this week, the twins sat on their matching dinosaur-print bedspreads, swinging their feet as they tried to explain why they felt uncomfortable saying the word God.
“I don’t really believe in him,” William said. “He sort of sounds like a make-believe character.”
“I don’t believe in him and I don’t think he’s true,” Michael agreed.
Without telling their parents, the twins began dropping the word God from the Scout’s oath--just as they also omit the words under God when they say the Pledge of Allegiance.
“We just went along and just kind of skipped the word,” William said. If their Culver City den leader noticed the omission, the twins said, he never mentioned it.
The Randall boys said they joined Cub Scout Pack 519 of Anaheim in October and shortly afterwards were asked by their den mother whether they were atheists.
“I said, ‘What does that mean?’ ” William said.
The den mother then called the boys’ parents to ask whether the family was atheist, James Randall said. The boys were then told that they could not advance in rank without completing the religious requirement, he said.
Randall said he made several calls to the Boy Scouts of America and was allegedly told that the matter could be overlooked and that the boys could advance if the Randalls would simply sign a document that said their sons had completed the religious requirement. They refused, and following further discussions, the twins were told they could not be Cub Scouts, the parents said.
“I don’t appreciate the fact that they suggested we lie,” said the boys’ mother, Valerie Randall. “It’s teaching hypocrisy, and that’s not the values that we think the Boy Scouts profess.”
Davidson said every Scout has been taking an oath to serve God and country since the group began in 1911.
“If a particular parent doesn’t want their children to be brought up to acknowledge a duty to God, they should not involve their children in Scouting programs,” he said.
James and Valerie Randall believe that the current flap may have something to do with the conservative politics of their neighborhood.
“I realize we are now in the land of Dannemeyer, Dornan and the rest of them,” James Randall said, referring to the county’s conservative congressmen.
James Randall said he is the only one of nine children to reject his Baptist upbringing. His wife was raised a Methodist. They say their sons are free to make up their own minds about religion.
But James Randall, a Vietnam veteran, said his sons are deeply patriotic. When the boys were in first grade they told him they refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance because they deserved “ ‘life, liberty and the peace of happiness,’ and we’re not happy when we say it (the pledge).”
Randall said that as soon as the Persian Gulf conflict began, the boys insisted on hanging an American flag outside their Anaheim Hills home, and one twin is writing to a serviceman. Both boys said they aspire to be Eagle Scouts.
“It’s just the thought of being forced to say something they don’t believe,” their mother said.
A week ago, James Randall obtained a temporary restraining order under which the boys may continue to attend Scout meetings until the case is decided.
The case is scheduled for a hearing in Orange County Superior Court on April 16.