Barnes-Wallace v. Boy Scouts of America

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 12-20-2012
  • Case #: 04-55732; 04-56167
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Canby for the Court; Circuit Judge Berzon; Concurrence by Circuit Judge Kleinfeld
  • Full Text Opinion

A city’s lease of land for one dollar per year to the Boy Scouts of America does not violate the California Constitution, because the leases are “indirect or incidental” aid by the city for a religious purpose, and the city’s lack of involvement does not amount to entanglement such that the leases would violate the California No Preference Clause or state or federal Establishment Clauses.

The City of San Diego leases Camp Balboa and the Youth Aquatic Center to the Desert Pacific Council (“Council”) for one dollar per year. The Council is a nonprofit corporation chartered by and bound by the rules of the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts' rules prohibit atheists, agnostics, and homosexuals from being members or volunteers. The plaintiffs, who are either lesbians or agnostics, alleged that the leases violated provisions of the California or federal Constitutions concerning the Establishment of Religion or the denial of Equal Protection. The Plaintiffs alleged that, but for the discriminatory policies, they and their sons would use the leased premises. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs, concluding that the leases violated the federal Establishment Clause and the California No Aid and No Preferences Clauses. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit determined that the leases did not violate the California constitution, because they are “indirect or incidental” aid by the City for a religious purpose under the factors set forth in Cal. Statewide Cmtys. Dev. Auth. v. All Persons Interested. The Court also held that the leases did not violate the California No Preference Clause or state or federal Establishment Clauses, because the City’s lack of involvement did not amount to entanglement. Further, the Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the Equal Protection Clause claims, the claims for violation of the San Diego Human Rights ordinance, and the breach of contract claim. AFFIRMED in part; REVERSED in part; and REMANDED.

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