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A federal judge ruled Friday that the Boy Scouts of America is not required to admit atheists.

The ruling came in a 1989 lawsuit brought on behalf of Mark Welsh, an 8-year-old Hinsdale boy who was denied membership in a suburban Tiger Cubs chapter because he didn't believe in God.The Welshes contended the Boy Scouts was barred by federal law from discriminating against potential members based on their religious beliefs because the group is a public organization.

Judge Ilana D. Rovner disagreed. The judge said the group is not a "place of public accommodation" as outlined in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Blake Lewis, the group's national spokesman, called the ruling a "reaffirmation of the Boy Scouts of America's right to determine the qualifications of our members."

Attorneys for the Scouts contended that the Cub Scout promise required members to swear their duty to God.

"I'm very disappointed," said attorney Richard Grossman, who represented Welsh.