Action Alert

Keep religious recruitment out of Fla. schools

We need your help stopping legislation that will allow for religious, discriminatory recruitment in public schools.

This Thursday, Sept. 14, Florida lawmakers will consider HB 95, a bill that would force all public schools in the state to make time for the Boy Scouts of America to give a recruiting presentation to students. Passing this bill would advance the interests of an exclusively religious, discriminatory organization.

Although the BSA has made slow progress in ending its longstanding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it still requires scouts to recognize “an obligation to God.” Atheists are not welcome in the Scouts at any level. The Scouts also allow churches that sponsor a Boy Scout troop to impose their own limitations on membership, meaning that many troops still discriminate against gay and transgender children as well.

HB 95 recklessly seeks to give preferential treatment to one discriminatory private club over all of the private groups that serve students in Florida. The bill goes even further by mandating that public schools allow the Scouts to disrupt regular classroom learning in order to advertise for their discriminatory club.

The bill also creates a free speech problem for public schools. Schools cannot discriminate between different private groups in determining when and how they can advertise to students. If passed, there’s nothing to stop all other private groups from demanding similar treatment, which would risk further disruptions to the regular school day.

Please call and email the members of the House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee, which will consider this bill on Thursday, and encourage them to oppose HB 95, which would give the Boy Scouts unique, preferential access to every public school student in the state.

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background

House Bill 95 (and its Senate analogue, SB254) gives special treatment to all organizations listed as “patriotic societies” under 36 U.S.C. 20101, but the Boy Scouts of America is the only organization mentioned by name. Under this bill, if the Boy Scouts ask to recruit at a public school, that school must, within 45 days, provide an opportunity for a BSA representative to speak to students and distribute written materials during the school day.

Public school districts should never interrupt the regular school day to host an outside organization’s recruiting event. Such a disruption in learning is even less appropriate when the organization actively discriminates against some students. Federal law already guarantees equal treatment to the Boy Scouts of America and other “patriotic societies” under a law called the “Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act.” 20 U.S.C. § 7905. Florida’s bill would go even further, giving the Boy Scouts favored treatment compared to other nonprofits and allowing them the unique power to disrupt the public school day. This special treatment is wildly inappropriate for a discriminatory organization.

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