Philadelphia Stands Up to Boy Scouts October 21, 2007

Philadelphia Stands Up to Boy Scouts

Philadelphia has laws (PDF) against discrimination. You can’t get public funding if you want to exclude gays/atheists from your meetings.

Which puts the Boy Scouts of America in a quandary.

The Cradle of Liberty Council hosts about 64,000 scouts from surrounding areas.

They “rent” a city-owned building on Logan Square for $1 a year.

Fair-market price for renting the building: $200,000 a year.

City officials have said they could not legally rent taxpayer-owned property for a dollar a year to a private organization that discriminates.

It’s the right stance to take, and if the BSA wants to rent the building, they’ll soon have to pay the additional $199,999.

Barring a resolution, the Cradle of Liberty Council – about 64,000 scouts in Philadelphia and parts of Delaware and Montgomery Counties – must vacate the property at 22d and Winter Streets after May 31.

“It’s disappointing, and it’s certainly a threat,” said Jeff Jubelirer, a spokesman for Cradle of Liberty Council, referring to the rent’s impact on the scouts’ chances of staying on the site.

Jubelirer said that $200,000 a year in rent “would have to come from programs. That’s 30 new Cub Scout packs, or 800 needy kids going to our summer camp.”

Or you could open your membership to everyone and get your cheap rent back.

But that would require compassion, kindness, and the sense to break a dumb tradition which never should have started in the first place. The heads of the Scouts seem incapable of making that decision.

(via Pam’s House Blend)

[tags]atheist, atheism, gay, homosexual, lawsuit[/tags]

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  • I walk by that building at least once a week. It would be nice if, a year from now, the Boy Scouts would still be there and only paying $1.

    Unfortunately, I have a feeling they’ll either shell out the extra cash or move somewhere else.

  • Well, the Fed is right for making groups choose between discrimination and funding. The Scouts are free to make that choice themselves, and they have. As a taxpayer but non-member, it’s none of my business whom they exclude from their meetings when I don’t have to support them. They’re a private organization and membership is a privilege they can extend to whomever they like, not an inherent right that belongs to everyone.

  • Oops, that’s the city of Philadelphia, not the Fed.

  • I imagine that the boy scouts in Philadelphia can’t really change the policies of the entire BSA.

  • Jen

    The BSA has such stupid policies they deserve to be punished. If they want to be homophobic, that’s awesome, but I would no sooner want my tax dollars to go to them than I would the KKK.

  • Vincent

    This sort of thing will probably splinter the BSA.
    The Philadelphia group could cut off ties with BSA and make its own scouting(tm) group.
    I heard the problem is the Mormon Church is anti-gay and will pull its members and stop making all Mormon boys join up.
    $200,000 is a drop in the bucket to the amount of money the BSA gets from the Mormon church.

  • justin

    In one of the articles covering this, I read that the Philadelphia group had previously tried to change the straights-only policy, but they were overruled by the national organization.

  • Lou Doench

    Several years ago “The Humanist” magazine did a very in depth story on the Scouts and discrimination. One conclusion the authors came to was that the BSA was so intertwined with local and national governments, for example high level scouts getting preferential treatment in placement in the armed forces, or ties to local police departments, that their claim to be a private organization was a farce.

    Its too bad the BSA continues it’s backwards attitudes. I was a cub scout and loved it, but once I got to Boy Scouts and entered a pretty intolerant zone (not just to gays and atheists, but any nonconformist) i dropped out quickly.

  • Patti Miller

    They BSA could just take the dodge that the Girl Scouts use…they’re allowed to replace the word “God” in the oath with whatever they deem appropriate.

    The pledge begins:

    On my honor, I will try:
    To serve God* and my country,

    with a footnote:

    * The word “God” can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on one’s spiritual beliefs. When reciting the Girl Scout Promise, it is okay to replace the word “God” with whatever word your spiritual beliefs dictate.

    That means that budding atheists and agnostics like my Brownie daughter can choose their own frame of reference.

    “To serve all mankind and my country.”

    “To serve the Flying Spaghetti Monster and my country.”

    But this may be a bit too logical and considerate for the BSA.

    Or, the boys can just join the Spiral Scouts, which is a Pagan Scouting group, but which admits atheists with no fuss.

  • stogoe

    The BSA was a powerful influence in my formative years, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything*. But as I’ve moved beyond that limited worldview, their intransigence on these issues becomes ever the more glaring.

    *While I wouldn’t trade being a boy scout for anything, there are probably half a dozen jerkwad asshat scouts and leaders in my troop I would have traded in for better ones. But I suppose that’s par for the course.

  • Allison

    I’m glad to see Philadelphia taking a strong stand against discrimination. Like Epistaxis, I really wouldn’t care about the discrimination if they really, truly acted like a private group, but they don’t. They get all sorts of government benefits. I have to deal with the public schools pushing the group on my sons on a yearly basis, sometimes more often than that. They have assemblies at the schools, get to send fliers home, and have announcements over the PA system, none of which is allowed of other private groups. I know a bunch of private groups doing good stuff for kids who would LOVE that sort of advertising.

    If they had to pay real market costs for all those times they normally get government perks, I suspect their tune would change.

    ETA: stogoe, the shame of it is that I think my oldest would probably love boy scouts. It’s a bit early to tell wth my youngest.

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