Scouts Who Refused to Say ‘God’ Sue Over Expulsion
Two young brothers who were expelled from their Cub Scout pack for refusing to say the word God in the Scout’s oath have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Orange County branch of the Boy Scouts of America.
The 9-year-old twins, William and Michael Randall of Anaheim Hills, never said the word God during the three years that they belonged to a Cub Scout troop in Culver City, and Scout leaders never made an issue of the omission until the boys moved to Orange County, said their father and attorney, James Grafton Randall.
“People should be able to believe whatever they want, or they don’t have to believe anything at all,” Michael said.
Theirs is one of at least three anti-discrimination lawsuits facing the Boy Scouts nationwide.
In a suit pending in a 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 Orange County case, the boys’ father argues that the Boy Scouts is 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, said the Scouts is 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 boys 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.”
For William and Michael Randall, the 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 third-graders sat on their matching dinosaur-print bedspreads and explained 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, William said, “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.
Davidson said every Scout has been taking an oath to serve God and country since the group began in 1911.