The bill is aimed at all tax-exempt youth organizations, but it was evident from the get-go -- when Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara introduced the bill in February -- that the Scouts were the primary target.
On May 23, delegates at the Boy Scouts' national meeting approved new guidelines allowing homosexual-identifying youth to be members. The policy still prohibits openly homosexual adults from serving as leaders. Six days later the California Senate, by a vote of 27-9, passed a bill that would reverse the tax-exempt status of youth organizations that discriminate on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
"They are out of line with the values of California and should be ineligible for a tax benefit paid for by all Californians," Lara said of the Scouts, according to The Sacramento Bee. "... We've given the Boy Scouts ample time to solve their discrimination problem. And they've chosen a path that still leads to discrimination."
The bill now moves to the Assembly, the lower house of California's Legislature.
Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute, criticized the Senate for passing the bill.
"Senator Lara did not speak for us all ... when he claimed SB 323 brings our laws in line with our values," England said. "This bill is about government vilifying our values and abusing its power to penalize, through taxation, those who hold different beliefs and values. SB 323 is an unprecedented intrusion by the government and a far reaching assault on freedoms of association, speech, and religion."
Meanwhile, churches across the nation continue to speak out against the Boy Scouts' new policy.
Pastor Greg Walker of First Baptist Church of Helena, Ala., said a local Boy Scout troop no longer would be allowed to meet at the church.
"I don't feel that I can allow a group to openly support a sinful lifestyle while under the umbrella of First Baptist Helena," he told Fox 6 News in Birmingham, Ala.
He told another TV station, "To be a member or to be an organization or ministry of the church, you have to align with what the Bible actually aligns with."
Walker says he feels bad for the kids, but says it is the Boy Scouts, not him, who made the decision.
In Georgia, Atlanta-area Roswell Street Baptist Church is ending its affiliation with a local Boy Scouts troop.
"I never dreamed I'd have to stand up publicly and say to parents: Pull your kids out of the Boy Scouts," Roswell Street pastor Ernest Easley told Baptist Press May 28.
Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press, with reporting by Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Copyright (c) 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net