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The U.S. Supreme Court last week let stand a ruling allowing the Boy Scouts of America to deny membership to boys and adult leaders who refuse to profess "a duty to God.''

The High Court rejected an appeal by Mark G.A. Welsh, a 10-year-old boy who had sought to join a Tiger Cub Scout troop in Hinsdale, Ill., but refused to subscribe to the Scouts' requirement of a belief in God. The boy's father, Elliott A. Welsh, who was denied the opportunity to become an "adult partner'' for the same reason, sued the Scouts on behalf of himself and his son.

The Welshes argued that the group's religious exclusion violates the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bans religious discrimination in public accommodations.

The Welshes lost in federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which held that Scout troops do not qualify as public accommodations under the civil-rights law because they are not an "establishment'' or a "place'' of entertainment within the meaning of the law.

The family's appeal to the High Court, Welsh v. Boy Scouts of America (Case No. 93-597), was rejected without comment on Dec. 6.

Although the Boy Scouts had won in the lower courts, the group asked the High Court to take the Illinois case to issue a definitive ruling on the issue. Several similar challenges to the Scout oath are pending around the country, requiring the organization to expend significant amounts of time and money to defend its practices, the group argued in its brief to the Court.

Drug Legalization: Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders last week said that legalization of drugs could lead to a major reduction in crime and should be studied.

But Dr. Elders's remarks, which came in response to a question during a luncheon at the National Press Club, were disavowed by the Clinton Administration.

Dr. Elders "is not speaking for the Administration,'' said Dee Dee Myers, the White House press secretary. "The President's position is: He is against legalizing drugs.''

Several Republicans, however, again criticized the Administration for selecting Dr. Elders, who has already stirred up controversy by advocating the distribution of condoms in schools.

Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., called on President Clinton to fire Dr. Elders.

Dr. Elders said some countries have seen a decline in their crime rate with no corresponding increase in drug use after legalization.

Later, her office issued a statement saying that Dr. Elders's comments were her own, and that there is no effort on the part of the Administration to study the legalization of drugs.

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