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Thursday, December 06, 2007

No Brotherly Love for the Boy Scouts

[UPDATE] Link for Scouting Legal Defense Fund

Update on a story we brought you back in October.

I've never been one to advocate boycotts on business. I do understand, however, the power of the boycott and how that they can be an effective tool in changing things. I'm advocating, for the first time, the boycott of an entire city. I call for this in an effort to affect this city's tourism dollar. I do this because I find this city to be in contempt of the United States Constitution.

I do this because I was a Boy Scout.

It's time to send Philadelphia a clear and strong message that they are out of line in making demands of a private organization to change their policies.

Boy Scouts Lose Philadelphia Lease in Gay-Rights Fight

Published: December 6, 2007

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 4 — For three years the Philadelphia council of the Boy Scouts of America held its ground. It resisted the city’s request to change its discriminatory policy toward gay people despite threats that if it did not do so, the city would evict the group from a municipal building where the Scouts have resided practically rent free since 1928.

Hailed as the birthplace of the Boy Scouts, the Beaux Arts building is the seat of the seventh-largest chapter of the organization and the first of the more than 300 council service centers built by the Scouts around the country over the past century.

But over the years the fight between the city and the Scouts was about more than this grandiose structure in Center City.

Municipal officials said the clash stemmed from a duty to defend civil rights and an obligation to abide by a local law that bars taxpayer support for any group that discriminates. Boy Scout officials said it was about preserving their culture, protecting the right of private organizations to remain exclusive and defending traditions like requiring members to swear an oath of duty to God and prohibiting membership by anyone who is openly homosexual.

This week the Boy Scouts made their last stand and lost.

“At the end of the day, you can not be in a city-owned facility being subsidized by the taxpayers and not have language in your lease that talks about nondiscrimination,” said City Councilman Darrell L. Clarke, who represents the district where the building is located. “Negotiations are over.”

Mr. Clarke said talks ended this week when the deadline passed for the local chapter to change its policy; on June 1 the group will be evicted.

“Since we were founded, we believe that open homosexuality would be inconsistent with the values that we want to communicate with our leaders,” said Gregg Shields, national spokesman for the Boy Scouts. “A belief in God is also mentioned in the Scout oath. We believe that those values are important. Tradition is important. Our mission is to instill those values in scouts and help them make good choices over their lifetimes.”

In 2000, the Supreme Court decided a case — Boy Scouts of America v. Dale — involving an openly gay scout from New Jersey who was barred from serving as troop leader. The court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision that, as a private organization, the group had a First Amendment right to set its membership rules.

The City of Philadelphia is in clear and direct violation of the civil rights of the Boy Scouts of America.

John F. Street, Mayor
City of Philadelphia
Room 215 City Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Primary Phone: 215-686-2181
Fax: 215-686-2180
E-Mail: John F. Street, City of Philadelphia

This isn't over. Not while I draw breath.

Once and Always, an American Fighting Man