Evans v. Berkeley
Evans v. Berkeley was a court case which upheld the right of governmental entities in California to withhold support from non-profit organizations that practice discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and religion.
Sea Scouts is a nautical-themed youth program of the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA has policies forbidding gays and atheists from participating in its organization, and these policies also apply to Sea Scouting units.
For over 50 years, the city of Berkeley, California had provided various Sea Scout units with free berths in the city's marina, the Berkeley Yacht Harbor, including the S.S.S. Farallon, chartered by St. Michael's Church on Durant above University, no longer extant, the S.S.S. Northland, chartered to Northbrae Community Church, the S.S.S. St. Ambrose, chartered to the St. Ambrose Church[disambiguation needed] and the S.S.S. Sea Hawk.
In 1997, the city passed a resolution requiring that in order to receive free use of the marina, non-profit organizations must "demonstrate" through "membership policies and practices" that it “promote[s] cultural and ethnic diversity.” The resolution also required that access to the marina "not be predicated on a person’s race, color, religion... age, sex, [or] sexual orientation".
Based on the Boy Scouts of America's policy of excluding gays and atheists from participation within its organization, the City of Berkeley decided that continued subsidy of the Sea Scouts would violate the resolution. As a result, the City terminated the free usage arrangement, and began billing the Sea Scouts the standard rent of $500 per month for the amount of berth space it uses.
In response, adult leader ("Skipper") of the S.S.S Farallon, Eugene Evans, and thirteen other members of the Sea Scouts sued the City of Berkeley. They alleged that the city's actions violated their Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Association.
A trial court ruled against the Sea Scouts, holding that "Berkeley had not 'attempted to muzzle anyone’s speech' or force the Sea Scouts to sever their association with BSA, but had only 'conditioned a city subsidy on compliance with nondiscrimination principles'."
In March 2006, the California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the lower courts rulings and found against the Sea Scouts: "We agree with Berkeley and the Court of Appeal that a government entity may constitutionally require a recipient of funding or subsidy to provide written, unambiguous assurances of compliance with a generally applicable nondiscrimination policy. We further agree Berkeley reasonably concluded the Sea Scouts did not and could not provide satisfactory assurances because of their required adherence to BSA’s discriminatory policies."
In July 2006 Evans et al. appealed to the United States Supreme Court. On October 16, 2006, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal from Evans without comment, thus allowing the California decision to stand.
The S.S.S. Farallon remained at the Berkeley Yacht Harbor and paid commercial rates until the unit was transferred by the Boy Scouts of America's Mt. Diablo Council from Berkeley to Alameda and gave up its boat. The S.S.S. Northland removed to Richmond, CA. The future of the SSS Sea Hawk and the SSS St. Ambrose is not known.
- "Court rules Berkeley can withdraw Scouts' rent subsidy" Article on the case and final decision from the San Francisco Chronicle.
- California Supreme Court Ruling (pdf)
- Scouting for All's Discussion of the case from a site critical of the Boy Scouts of America.
- Boy Scouts Legal Issues: Evans Decision. From the Boy Scouts of America point of view.