Atheist Twins Can Rejoin Cub Scouts, Judge Rules

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a ruling with potentially widespread implications, an Orange County Superior Court judge decided Thursday that twin Anaheim Hills brothers who do not believe in God should be allowed to join the Cub Scouts.

The decision by Judge Richard O. Frazee Sr. was a blow to Scouting officials who had expelled William and Michael Randall because they had refused to say the word God in the Cub Scout oath.

"We feel very strong about our values and we have no intentions of letting this go on without an appeal," said Blake Lewis, the national spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America. "Mainstream American families want these values for their young people."

But to the 10-year-old Randall boys, the decision was a hard-fought victory that gives them a chance to rejoin a Cub Scout den.

"I feel so great I can't even put it in words," said William as he walked out of the courtroom.

"Me too," beamed his identical twin brother, Michael. "I can't wait to put my uniform back on . . . if it still fits."

To the boy's father, an attorney who represented his sons during the 15-month case, Frazee's decision was a "vindication."

"There's been a lot of personal attacks against us and our ability to be parents and raise our children," said James Grafton Randall, as he fought back tears. "This has been a very emotional case. My boys said, 'Don't have a cow, Dad,' but Dad is having a cow right now."

The judge's ruling concludes--at least temporarily--a bitter court battle that saw outraged testimony from parents of other Cub Scouts, emotional pleas from the two Randall boys to be allowed to rejoin their pack and derisive comments between attorneys.

For the Boy Scouts of America, it was the first major legal challenge to its membership policy it has lost. Last March, a federal court judge in Chicago ruled that an 8-year-old atheist could be excluded from Scouting. And in another California case in May, 1991, a homosexual was precluded by a state court from becoming a Scoutmaster, even though the court also ruled that the organization fell under the Unruh Civil Rights Act.

The case started in January, 1991, when the twins' den mother discovered that the boys did not swear an oath to God. They were told that they couldn't advance in rank without fulfilling a religious requirement and were ultimately ejected from the organization.

The Randalls filed a lawsuit to get the boys back in their den.

James Randall asked that the Boy Scouts respect their religious rights, guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and state discrimination laws. To the Randalls, freedom of religion meant "freedom from religion."

George Davidson, the attorney for the Orange County Council of the Boys Scouts of America, argued that it's the organization's right of freedom of association that was being threatened.

For both sides, the case hinged on whether Scouting is defined as a private organization, with the discretion to pick and choose its members, or classified as a business establishment bonded by the state Unruh Civil Rights Act, which says no business can discriminate on the basis of "sex race, color, religion."

In his ruling Thursday, Frazee agreed with Randall that the 82-year-old organization was indeed a business establishment under state statute.

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