A federal judge ruled Friday that Boy Scouts of America is not required to admit atheists.
The ruling came in a 1989 lawsuit brought on behalf of Mark Welsh, an 8-year-old boy who was denied membership in a suburban Tiger Cubs chapter in Hinsdale, Ill., because he said he does not believe in God.
The boy’s family contended that federal law barring membership discrimination based on religious beliefs applies to the Scouts because the group is a public organization.
U.S. District Judge Ilana D. Rovner disagreed, ruling that the group is not a “place of public accommodation” as outlined in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The case is similar to a lawsuit filed in February, 1991, by twin brothers William and Michael Randall of Anaheim against the Orange County Scouting council.
The 10-year-olds alleged that they were illegally expelled from their Anaheim Cub Scout den because they refused to say the word God in the Cub Scout Promise.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard O. Frazee Sr. is expected to deliver his ruling on that lawsuit before the end of March.
Blake Lewis, national Cub Scout spokesman, called the Chicago ruling a “reaffirmation of the Boy Scouts of America’s right to determine the qualifications of our members.”
Attorneys for the Scouts contended that the Cub Scout Promise requires members to swear their duty to God.
“I’m very disappointed,” said attorney Richard Grossman, who represented Mark Welsh.