Philly Boy Scouts Threatened With Eviction Over Anti-Gay Policy

This 2003 post, about the short-lived decision of the Philadelphia Boy Scouts to buck the national Boy Scouts leadership by refusing to discriminate against gay Scouts, has recently come up in comments. Which led me to check out what’s going on with the Philly Boy Scouts currently:

Philly May Oust Scouts Over Anti-Gay Policy
by The Associated Press

July 23, 2006

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) The city said it will evict a Boy Scout council from its publicly owned headquarters or make the group pay a fair rent price unless it changes its policy on gays.

The Boy Scouts’ Cradle of Liberty Council, the country’s third-largest, has been battling with the city for more than three years over the policy, which like the national Scouts organization forbids gays from being leaders.

City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. wrote a letter to William T. Dwyer III, president of the Cradle of Liberty Council, stating that the council’s “discriminatory policies” violate city policy and law, and that city officials have not been assured the group will not discriminate.

Unless the city gets a “fair-market rent agreement,” the council will be evicted, the letter says.

The group has made its headquarters on a half-acre owned by the city in the upscale Philadelphia Art Museum area since 1928, when the city council voted to allow the Scouts to use the property rent-free “in perpetuity.” The Scouts pay for building upkeep.

The Boy Scouts have said they’re going to take the city to court to protect their sacred Constitutional right to rent-free space in a choice downtown location. If so, they won’t be the only Scout troop suing for a hand-out.

If Philly does evict the Scouts, the city might lose $62 million in Federal grant money. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The federal Support Our Scouts Act of 2005 allows the Department of Housing and Urban Development to deny funds to any state or local government that discriminates against or denies Boy Scouts access to facilities equal to those provided to other groups. The city received more than $62 million in HUD funds last year.

Meanwhile, back in May, two boys were kicked out of a Louisiana Boy Scout troop for being Wiccans.

[Crossposted at Creative Destruction. If your comments aren’t being approved here, try there.].

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5 Responses to Philly Boy Scouts Threatened With Eviction Over Anti-Gay Policy

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  2. 2
    StacyM says:

    I just love how the federal government uses its financial power to bully local governments into using their money to support hate and discrimination. I remember a time when conservatives would rail against the idea of the federal government nosing into the business of local government. It seems as though such concerns last only until a series of a favorable election cycles shines down upon them.

  3. 3
    SamChevre says:

    How is going to court to insist that the government follow the laws it passed asking for a hand-out? If I bought a bond, and the government refused to pay it because it disliked my politics, wouldn’t that be illegal?

    This case seems to me similar.

  4. 4
    RonF says:

    Some comments on the issues presented above:

    The Cradle of Liberty Council is just that, a local Council, not a Scout Troop. In 1928 as stated, they were granted the right to occupy that space rent free “in perpetuity”. Now, the last time I checked, that means forever, not for 78 years. There’s a question here as to whether or not the City of Philadelphia has the right to discriminate against the Cradle of Liberty Council (a not for profit corporation whose function is to administer the programs of the BSA in that area) on the basis of it’s membership criteria. We’ll see what the courts say.

    The group in Berkeley is not a Scout Troop, either. It’s a Sea Scout Ship (ages 14 – 21, co-ed) that apparently has never discriminated against a homosexual in it’s existence. It’s also not looking for a free handout.

    While you’d never know it from that Planet Out article (apparently research is not their strong point), that berthing space was paid for by the local Council when the local Council provided a great deal of stone that was used as rip rap in the harbor from a quarry on land the Council owned. Rip rap is large stone (think anywhere from softball to basketball or bigger) that is used to line a harbor shoreline or to create breakwaters off shore to keep wave action from eroding the harbor shore into the water, to keep boats from being broken off of their mooring points and tossed onto the shore by storms, and to enable people to get to and from their boats and dock them without being affected by waves. Now Berkeley wants to keep the rip rap that allows everyone to use the harbor but break the agreement they made to get it in the first place. Talk about using the power of the State to bully someone.

    As far as the two Wiccan kids being tossed out of their Scout Troop, I think that’s lousy. I wouldn’t have a problem with a couple of Wiccan kids in my Troop. It’s worthwhile to understand, though, how this works. A sponsor (VFW or American Legion Post, PTA or PTO, a church, etc.) can restrict the membership of their unit on just about any basis they choose. They can say, “only kids whose parents are a member of our organization”, “only kids who are Mormon”, “only kids whose parents volunteer to register as committee members or leaders”, “we’ve got as many kids as we can handle right now”, “your kid has been endangering the safety of other kids in the Troop”, etc. What seems to have gone on here is that some of the Troop parents are pretty intolerant on a religious basis (thus violating the 12th point of the Scout Law:

    “A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

    and were worried that Wiccan kids would be a bad influence on their kids or might try to convert them. National said that Wiccan kids are fine, it recognizes Wiccan as a way to do your “Duty to God”. It was the parents and some of the people in the church that were the problem. I think they acted in a shameful manner and that it was at variance with the Scout Oath and Law. This is not representative of Scouting.

    I haven’t seen any further information on these kids. I hope that there’s another Troop in the community that’s run on a sane basis according to the actual principles of Scouting.

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