Scalise v. Mount Pleasant Public Schools
(Isabella County, Mount Pleasant, Michigan No. 00-244-NZ)
In October 2001, John Scalise and his son, Benjamin, filed suit alleging the Huron Council of the Boy Scouts violated their religious freedom by requiring an affirmation of belief in God. Scalise and his son are atheists. Scalise also alleged that because Mt. Pleasant Public Schools are partnered
with BSA, the district is violating its own nondiscrimination policy. The Scalises wanted BSA banned from Fancher Elementary until the suit is settled. The Huron Council agreed in December 2001 not to hold meetings at Fancher, until the lawsuit was settled. Isabella County Circuit Court Chief Judge Paul Chamberlain said he would consider ordering a ban if an agreement wasn't made. William Ewald, attorney for Mt. Pleasant Schools, said that the school district already had stopped BSA from
coming onto school grounds during the day, and there hadn't been any meetings during or after school hours. He also said that the district didn't anticipate distributing any Scout materials until April. "If we can preserve that status quo, then we're happy," said Timothy Taylor, attorney for the Scalises. Scalise's lawsuit alleged that BSA and Mt. Pleasant schools violated Michigan's constitution and the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. He cited the
group's Declaration of Religious Principles, which BSA requires Scout leaders to sign. Scalise, who had volunteered to be a Scout leader after his son joined in 1997, said the declaration's requirement that he make an affirmation of a belief in God offended him.
In December 2001, Judge Chamberlain granted the Scalises the right to monetary damages, but omitted relief in the form of an injunction. Both parties were
unable to reach an agreement on damages. Before the issues went to trial, the Scalises filed a motion in May 2002 with the court to reconsider it's December 2001 decision and issue a permanent injunction.
On November 4, 2002, Judge Paul Chamberlain reversed his previous decision awarding damages against BSA and dismissed the case brought by John Scalise against the Mt. Pleasant Schools and the local BSA council on the grounds of religious discrimination. Scalise
is intending on appealing the decision.
On January 21, 2005, the Michigan Court of Appeals let stand Chamberlain's ruling that the Mount Pleasant Public Schools' ties with the Boy Scouts of America did not violate the state constitution. In 2006, the US Supreme Court rejected Scalise's appeal and the case was closed.
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