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Agnostic Scouts Seek Higher Rank

March 16, 1998

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ With the backing of a court order, agnostic twins who refuse to repeat part of the Boy Scout oath acknowledging duty to God have met all the other requirements to advance to Eagle Scouts.

William and Michael Randall, 16, were questioned Sunday by a panel reviewing their application for scouting’s highest rank.

The panelists were prohibited by court order from asking any questions about the boys’ religious beliefs, said Devon Dougherty, a spokesman for the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

The twins’ applications must still be reviewed by the national office of the Boy Scouts of America, a process that could take four to six weeks, Dougherty said.

``They’re elated, and so are we,″ said James Randall, the boys’ father and lawyer. ``The national committee has never overturned a local recommendation. But we’re in uncharted territory.″

The boys say they can’t repeat the part of the scout oath that acknowledges duty to God because they don’t believe in God.

A ruling is pending in the state Supreme Court on whether the Boy Scouts may expel the twins for refused to repeat the oath’s religious pledge. In the meantime, Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard O. Frazee told the local scout council last month to follow through on the Eagle Scout process.

The Supreme Court decision is expected this month.

Scouts’ attorneys argue that belief is fundamental to the organization. But James Randall maintains that scouting is a business covered by state law that prohibits businesses from discriminating because of religion.

Eagle Scouts must complete 100 hours of community service, leadership requirements and earn 21 merit badges before they can be considered for the rank of Eagle Scout.

Nationally, about 2 percent of all Boy Scouts make Eagle Scout, Dougherty said. In Orange County, 4 percent are promoted to that rank.

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