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Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Lauds New Jersey Court Decision Banning Discrimination by Boy Scouts of America

Saperstein: "The Justices made clear that they find discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation repugnant. So do we, and so should the Boy Scouts."

Contact: Jeff Mandell or Adina Rosenbaum,
(202) 387-2800

WASHINGTON, August 5, 1999 - Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, lauded yesterday's New Jersey Supreme Court decision that the Boy Scouts of America may not discriminate against scouts on the basis of sexual orientation. "The Court's clear and unanimous action sends a powerful signal that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unacceptable in our society," he said.

The Religious Action Center, in keeping with long-standing policy against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, joined an amicus brief supporting James Dale, a twenty-year old boy who had been a model scout until he had his membership revoked because of his homosexuality and subsequently sued the Boy Scouts of America, in his suit against the Boy Scouts of America.

The full text of Saperstein's statement follows:

We applaud yesterday's decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court requiring the Boy Scouts of America to stop discriminating against homosexuals who wish to participate in scouting activities. The Court's clear and unanimous action sends a powerful, and welcome, signal that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unacceptable in our society.

The Boy Scouts of America has long had a policy barring gays from becoming scouts or adult volunteers. The Boy Scouts' attempt to defend their discriminatory practices as protected First Amendment conduct is offensive to the cherished freedoms that the First Amendment, in fact, guarantees. The Justices made clear that they find discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation repugnant. So do we, and so should the Boy Scouts. Rank discrimination should have no place in an organization that aspires to inculcate fundamental American values in our nation's boys.

We Jews are all too aware that the denial of basic human dignity can lead to a denial of civil rights and violence based on bigotry. And, we are aware that teaching our youth, by word or by deed, that discrimination is acceptable can only lead to the perpetuation of ignorance, prejudice, and rifts in society. The Jewish tradition teaches us that all human beings are created b'tselem elohim—in the image of God. Discrimination against any person arising from apathy, insensitivity, ignorance, fear, or hatred is inconsistent with this fundamental principle. We commend the New Jersey Supreme Court for its unequivocal ruling, and for its powerful example.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.



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