updated 10/16/2006 11:56:05 AM ET 2006-10-16T15:56:05

The Supreme Court Monday allowed Berkeley, California, to deny a free berth at its marina to a sea-scouting program of the Boy Scouts because the group excludes gays and atheists.

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The justices let stand a California Supreme Court ruling that Berkeley can demand that the Sea Scouts group affiliated with the national Boy Scouts abide by the city's non-discrimination policy in return for the free berth.

The ruling was one of a handful by courts across the country that have allowed cities and government agencies to impose anti-discrimination conditions on the Boy Scouts or similar groups that receive a public subsidy.

Eugene Evans, an adult participant in the Sea Scouts program, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and argued the city's action violated the First Amendment constitutional protections of freedom of speech and association.

The high court rejected his appeal without comment.

Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Harold Johnson, co-counsel for the skipper of the Berkeley Sea Scouts, said in a statement: "We are disappointed that the court declined to hear a challenge to the city of Berkeley's policy of punishing the Sea Scouts because they are not 'politically correct."'

The Sea Scouts had free use of space at the city marina from 1930 to 1998. The city then decided to end the subsidies to nonprofit groups that discriminate based on race, sexual orientation, gender or religion.

After the Sea Scouts refused to provide written assurances it would not discriminate against gays and atheists who want to take part in the program, the city began charging $500 a month in rent for the groups's vessel.

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