Making Judges Tolerant

San Francisco is one city that appears to have an anti-Christian bent. To accommodate a local bar association resolution, San Francisco Superior Court judges and commissioners adopted a policy prohibiting judges within their jurisdiction from membership in any organization that "discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation by excluding members on the grounds that their sexual orientation renders them 'unclean,' 'immoral,' or 'unfit."' Presiding Judge Ronald Quidachay said, "It has long been a tradition of 'the bench of this State, and in particular of the bench of the Superior Court in San Francisco, to respect the rights and dignity of all litigants and counsel who appear before it and to refrain from even the perception or appearance of any type of invidious discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation ... The San Francisco bench has always appreciated the diversity of its own members and of the citizens who have occasion to deal with the court system. We are pleased to have the opportunity to reconfirm that commitment."

Under the Superior Court policy, judges and commissioners are forbidden from being Scoutmasters, troop leaders, or members of a governing board that is affiliated with the Boy Scouts or any other organization that excludes homosexuals. The Pacific Justice Institute weighed in on the policy, saying that it is so broad that it could arguably preclude judges from being members of a church or synagogue that preaches against homosexuality. It is no secret that the policy is primarily aimed at the Boy Scout Association, which refuses to permit homosexuals to serve as Scout leaders. Dr. D. James Kennedy, with the Center for Reclaiming America, said, "This is an unconscionable, unconstitutional power grab that blatantly takes away the First Amendment rights of Christian judges. The judicial branch of government was specifically designed to protect the freedoms of religion and association. What a hypocritical thing it would be to deny judges the very same rights they are supposed to protect."

Apparently emboldened by their success, homosexual activists began pressuring the California Supreme Court to amend California's Code of Judicial Conduct to prohibit all the state's judges from associating with the Boy Scouts. Like those lobbying the San Francisco Court, the Los Angeles Bar Association and the Bar Association of San Francisco claim that if judges affiliate with the Boy Scouts, they will create a perception that they have an antihomosexual bias. In the name of tolerance, the groups seek to deny the constitutional right of California judges to associate with groups whose policies reflect values with which they disagree. The two bar associations did say they would agree to a compromise. They would be willing to allow judges to join a scout troop as long as those judges disavowed the Boy Scout Association's moral objection to homosexuality. (In 1998, even the California Supreme Court, in two cases, ruled lawful the Boy Scouts' policy refusing membership to homosexuals and atheists. The United States Supreme Court in 2000 validated the Boy Scouts' policy as well, largely on the basis of the constitutional rights of freedom of association and freedom of speech.) It is significant that judges can run afoul of these policies without exhibiting any prejudice or bias personally; mere association with a group that is perceived to be biased is sufficient. Such is the broad sweep of these measures.

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