Boy Scouts Could Lose Tax-Exempt Status in California Because of Gay Ban

A new bill (SB 323) proposed by openly gay California state senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) would strip the Boy Scouts' tax exempt status for discriminating against members and leaders on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBT POV reports:

LaraCurrently, organizations that discriminate on these grounds may still receive sales [see items BSA sells here] and corporate tax exemptions, a provision that is intended to encourage acting in the public interest,” according to a joint press release. “SB 323 would end this exemption for youth groups that continue to discriminate by treating their sales to the same extent as any other retailers. This bill would also require organizations with discriminatory policies to pay corporate taxes on donations and other forms of income.

“Our state values the important role that youth groups play in the empowerment of our next generation; this is demonstrated by rewarding organizations with tax exemptions supported financially by all Californians,” stated Senator Lara. “SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws.”

The SF Chronicle adds:

The amount of financial benefits scouting organizations in California receive through their state tax-exempt status is not clear, and backers of the measure said they would seek that information from the Franchise Tax Board and Board of Equalization as the bill moves through the legislative process. Proponents did say the measure would affect the Boy Scouts in particular, and hope a push in California will add pressure to the national scouting organization, based in Irving, Texas, as leaders there consider any changes.

"I thought it was necessary for California to make sure we don't condone the discriminating practices of youth groups like the Boy Scouts of America," Lara said about the timing of the bill as the national organization wrestles with whether to make a change. "We've given the Boy Scouts ample time, and they've chosen not to address this issue."


  1. Leo says

    For churches to be next is wishful thinking and then some. There’s be an all out cultural war on our hands. Not that I’m against that, but…

  2. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says

    The real impact on the Boy Scouts would be sudden;y being liable for property taxes on their Council and District campgrounds and wilderness Scout Reservations….million and millions of dollars.

    As a former long-time BSA scout and adult leader before all this “gay” nonsense started in the 1980’s; Hehhehehehhe…

  3. Pete N SFO says

    I’m glad that Lara has initiated it; he’s exactly correct, stating that (we) reward organizations with tax exemptions when they support a greater public interest.

    You want to discriminate, you’re outta that club.

  4. Icebloo says

    This is the ONLY way to make terrible organizations like religions and the Boy Scouts behave – hit them in their bank balance. These organizations are ALL ABOUT MONEY – nothing else.

    The Catholic Church in the UK used to refuse to marry anyone who was divorced. This meant people went to the Church of England instead so the Catholic Church was losing millions of pounds in revenue. Guess what ? Yep, overnight the Catholic Church change it’s policy. Now divorced people can get married in a Catholic Church.

    We need to make ALL religions pay income taxes. They invest BILLIONS in the world’s stock markets and pay NO tax on any of their income. This is why we now have religions owning private jets, private hospitals and private airports. Do organizations with this kind of money REALLY need to be tax exempt ? How are they any different than any other profit-making company such as Walmart ?

  5. David Hearne says

    Do this and the ACLU will be in court defending the Boy Scouts in a heartbeat. Clearly this would be an assault on the First Amendment.

    It’s one thing to acknowledge that the BSA is a private religious club and not entitled to the SPECIAL treatment it has received over the years when the public perception was that it was a community organization open to all boys of a certain age and their parents. It’s another to single it out for punishment for its expression.

    While it might amuse you to think about churches being taxed out of existence, it’s precisely that prospect which the Constitution forbids. This is not because they are religions per se, it’s because the government is not supposed to be deciding which churches are OK and which ones aren’t.

    Moreover, churches don’t actually get a “religious exemption” they get an “institutional exemption”. This allows private clubs and community organizations an equal footing. The Knights Of Columbus Hall is treated the same as The BPOE and The Moose, and the Sons Of Italy, and the POlish American Society. Nursing homes, hospitals, private schools, etc… all get the same tax breaks because the government cannot be put in the position of deciding who gets favorable treatment.

    The BSA is entitled to be untaxed regardless of their policies. So is the Gay Community Center Of Greater Tuna.

  6. Rawn says

    Churches should have to pay taxes whether they discriminate or not.

    Having some familiarity with non-profits, I’d suggest they all should have to pay taxes. It’s not really in the public interest to exempt them.

  7. JJ says

    If churches are taxed then they’ll demand greater rights to organize politically (i.e., no taxation without representation). I’m all in favor of squelching chruches, but when it comes to taxation, I think it’s best to tax only the ones that break the rules.

  8. JJ says

    @David Hearne, IANAL, but it sounds like the law is worded to classify organizations according to how they appropriate property. Those who endeavor in the public interest (i.e., non-profits) in accordance with public policy (i.e., in line with non-discrimination laws) are eligible for public subsidy (i.e., tax relief). To strike down this law as viewpoint discrimination, it seems like you’d have to establish that property is speech, that the protections afforded private speech extend to public property serving as private speech, and that non-discrimination laws are an impermissible restriction on that speech. If this legal framework were unconstitutional, then you’d think that some other familiar laws would also be invalid, like laws requiring city contractors to provide equal benefits.

  9. Francis says

    I wonder too if this would hold up on legal challenge, but it sure is a great though to fantasize about and I hope action is taken. Discrimination should always lead to a revoking of tax exemption.

  10. David Hearne says

    JJ –

    City contractors do not have a constitutionally protected right to a city contract. The city can place all sorts of restrictions on contractors including pay scales and such. In Maryland, for example, contractors for the state roads commission must pay union scale even if they are non-union. This is to put all labor on an equal footing in the contract bidding process.

    As for the institutional exemption, it is not unlimited. St Mary’s cannot buy a McDonald’s franchise and exempt it as a hamburger ministry. Nor can they run a hotel that is open to the public, but they can run a hotel that is operated as a retreat for members of their church.

    Country clubs retain the right to discriminate in any way they see fit as a rule, as long as they don’t accept too much outside business (like weddings) and become a public accommodation.

    It’s one area of the law where the courts are fairly intolerant of workarounds. Let’s face it, the BPOE, Moose, Eagles, Redmen, etc… are actually private bars which historically were reserved in membership for white christian males. They got around liquor licensing and other regulations by creating a “benevolent association” hence all the charity work and donations. As long as they stick to the rules, they do OK. But if they accept too much outside business, they risk losing tax exempt status.

    The exception appears to be the VFW or American Legion. They take a lot of outside business and they issue one night memberships to women so that they don’t turn into pathetic old man drinking clubs. But I guess because they are veteran affiliated they get a pass.

  11. Randy says

    As if churches aren’t already politically involved.

    It’s time to end the special free ride for nonsense and division, and tax them like everyone else.

  12. Bill says

    Earlier today, I added a comment – a reply to Laura’s question about churches – that included a link to the text of the proposed law so that people could see what the law actually would say.

    That comment evaporated. I’ve no idea as to why – nothing in it was offensive and it added useful information for any discussion – a link to the actual text on the California legislature’s web site.

    Someone else can try to reproduce that information. I’m not going to waste my time.

  13. Hurler says


    I just want to be clear, by taking away a privilege (a special right granted under special circumstance with requirements)we would be violating their rights?

    As I see it, they are not being forced to close their doors. They can continue to discriminate all they want, they just will not receive any special treatment in regards to taxes to help facilitate that hate.

  14. Russ M. says

    So are we now a society of whining children? If you as an organization don’t do as we say we will punish you in some way.Is this the type of government we elected? It sounds to me like a mobsters’ protection racket.I think it is very sad that our government believes it can tell an organization such as BSA what to think,what to accept–or else!How soon will it be before we are told what we can or cannot say? Oh wait they already do in the name of political correctness.

  15. Tim Youngans says

    Silence all organizations that do not embrace the gay community. Celebrate sameness, I mean diversity.

  16. PIssed off BS says

    Just come up with a new organization
    How about the Friends Admiring Gently Guiding Oral Teachings?

    I think that sounds about right. Nobody said they couldn’t set up their own troop 71.

    Sexual preference does not belong anywhere in the scouting program. If your that intent on forcing sexual preference in scouts, then it isn’t the scouts.