A California bill aimed at revoking tax exemptions from youth groups that fail to embrace homosexuality came one step closer to becoming law yesterday.
SB 323, which specifically targets the Boy Scouts of America but encompasses other youth groups with nonprofit status, will require the groups to include members and leaders regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation in order to receive tax breaks offered to all nonprofits.
Bill author Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, admitted during yesterday’s hearing before the California Senate Governance and Finance Committee that the bill is directed at the Boy Scouts, which recently came under fire for its long-standing policy prohibiting homosexual scout leaders.
“Unfortunately in California, some organizations are out of step with state law and regularly discriminate,” Lara said. “The most egregious violator is the Boy Scouts of America.”
The committee passed the bill 5-2 yesterday. It now heads to the state Senate and Assembly before landing on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Because the bill deals with tax increases, it requires a two-thirds approval from the legislature, which should not be difficult to get given California’s largely liberal government, said Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute (PJI).
“The fact that it passed 5-2 should send a wake-up call to people of faith about this egregious violation of the freedom of religion,” Dacus said. He said the bill would effect groups like 4-H and Special Olympics or even religious groups not directly connected to the church, including Young Life, Youth for Christ, or AWANA, forcing them “to hire homosexuals and transexuals to work for their organizations even though to do so is against the morals and goals of the organizations.”
Dacus finds it ironic that one of the functions of the Boy Scouts is to teach boys—many who grew up without a father—how to be men through healthy male bonding. Yet the bill would “force the Boy Scouts to refute the total benefit and process of the group, and bring more confusion in the very sensitive issues of gender identity and masculinity.”
The bill also affects private Christian schools and colleges, which could lose their sales tax exemption for rejecting homosexuality. Dacus believes it will only be a matter of time before Christian schools and churches will lose all their tax exemptions.
LGBT rights activists also are pushing to pass another bill in California which would require elementary, middle, and high schools to allow students access to sports teams, bathrooms, locker rooms, or other facilities based on self-proclaimed “gender identity,” rather than their actual gender. This bill also has a high chance of passing.
The result of the anti-Boy Scout bill will have grave implications for the future of the state, and the nation, Dacus said.
“If this passes and then we at PJI aren’t successful in stopping it in the courts, we can easily expect the next round to include not just nonprofit youth groups but also all nonprofits, including churches,” he said. “If it passes in California, expect to see similar legislation in other states across the country.”