The Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts of America was ordered late yesterday afternoon to consider Michael and William Randall's applications to become Eagle Scouts, Scouting's highest honor. In 1991, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California successfully brought suit to reinstate the twin boys, then 9 years old, after they were dismissed from Scouting for refusing to take an oath to God. The boys, who do not consider themselves to be atheists, explain that they do not understand what the word God means to them and thus do not feel comfortable taking an oath. After a trial in 1992, the Superior Court of Orange County held that the Orange County Council had discriminated against the boys on the basis of their religious beliefs in violation of California's civil rights statute, known as the Unruh Act.

Michael and William have been active members in Scouting for the past 9 years and were selected to be members of the equivalent of Scouting's Ahonor society,@ the Order of the Arrow, to which less than 5% of all Scouts belong. They submitted their completed application last year, but the Orange County Council refused to consider the boys' applications. Late yesterday afternoon, after hearing argument from both sides, Superior Court Judge Frazee ordered that the boys' applications be heard no later than March 15, 1998.

Michael and William are thrilled that the Court recognizes that they deserve to be treated with the same respect and dignity as the other boys in their troop,@ said Taylor Flynn, staff attorney of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. AThese boys have worked so hard in fact, Michael and William were the first boys in their troop to achieve the rank of `Brotherhood' in a decade. They are model Scouts, Flynn said.

The California Supreme Court heard the oral argument for this case on January 5, 1998, along with the case of the former Eagle Scout, Timothy Curran, who was expelled from Scouting after the Mount Diablo Council of the Boy Scouts learned that he was gay. The ACLU represented Timothy Curran in that case as well, Curran v. Mount Diablo Council, Boy Scouts of America. A decision in both cases is expected from the California Supreme Court by early April.

Michael and William continue to participate in Scouting pursuant to the Superior Court's 1992 order. Their Eagle applications should have been heard nearly 2 months ago, in early January. AEvery day that passes in which the boys' applications are not considered is another day of discrimination,@ Flynn said. AMy understanding is that, in the history of Michael and William's troop, the rank of Eagle has been conferred on every boy who has applied for it. We also know that the Orange County Council has conferred the rank of Eagle on an openly agnostic Scout. But the fear, of course, is that once Michael and William's Eagle board is held, it will simply be a `Kangaroo Court' in which their applications are summarily denied. We certainly hope that Scouting will live up to its own credo and act with honor by considering the boys' applications without prejudice.