Philadelphia City Hall
Outraged citizens crashed the e-mail system of the Philadelphia mayor’s office after the city accused the local Boy Scouts chapter of discriminating against homosexuals and forced the organization to pay $200,000 rent for its city-owned headquarters.
About 150,000 Boy Scout-related e-mails were removed from the city’s e-mail system, reported the Bulletin newspaper of Philadelphia.
“We were deluged,” said Terry Phillis, chief information officer for Mayor John Street. “We pulled the messages off so they wouldn’t take the system down. It had to be done to protect system integrity.”
As WND reported, Philadelphia’s city council voted to renege on a 1928 ordinance allowing the Cradle of Liberty Council to have its headquarters in a building on a parcel of public land “in perpetuity” for $1 a year.
Phillis believes there was “an active campaign to let city council know they were against what happened.”
The city told the Scouts they must either adopt the city non-discrimination policies, pay the market value rent of $200,000 a year or give up the building space.
Water color by Kenneth Brookes, 1943
The Bulletin said the e-mails criticizing the city’s decision threatened the computer system despite a sophisticated filtering system designed to prevent overloads.
A city council man who supports the Scouts, Frank Rizzo, said he will answer every e-mail he received.
“I received more than 1,000 e-mails just Sunday,” he told the Philadelphia paper. “… I believe I have an obligation to people who write to me. I treat it just like it was a letter.”
City officials in San Francisco and Boston have made similar decisions to displace the Scouts because of the group’s behavior code.
Jeff Jubelirer, spokesman for the Cradle of Liberty Council, told the Associated Press last week the higher rent money “would have to come from programs. That’s 30 new Cub Scout packs, or 800 needy kids going to our summer camp.”
“It’s disappointing, and it’s certainly a threat,” he said.
Homosexual organizations previously challenged the Scouts’ policy, but lost at the U.S. Supreme Court level, where a 2000 ruling confirmed that as a private group, the Scouts could set restrictions for their leaders.
The activist groups then turned their sights on property arrangements such as in Philadelphia, where the Scouts had been using a parcel of public property, only with some maintenance costs, for years.
The Philadelphia Scouting council in 2003 said it would adopt a nondiscrimination policy on homosexuals, but reversed itself within weeks and then dismissed an 18-year-old who publicly announced his homosexuality during that time period.
Former WND columnist Hans Zeiger, who wrote a book about the Scouts and their battles, “Get Off My Honor: The Assault on the Boy Scouts of America,” said the Boy Scouts since 1911 have been reaching out to the disabled, racial and ethnic minorities, Native Americans and inner city children with the lessons of right and wrong.
“When it comes to a Scout troop, sexual orientation is an issue that goes beyond differences in skin color or economic status. It affects such matters as tenting arrangements and the development of pre-teenage masculinity in a close-knit group of boys and men,” he wrote.
“The BSA’s position against homosexuality is not just an issue of moral principle in an effort to affirm the Scout Oath and Law, it is a serious safety effort to prevent cases of sexual abuse and harassment,” he wrote.
“So here’s what I say to the radical Left in the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed … Take away the funding. Seize the 75-year-old headquarters building. The Scouts can survive without it,” he wrote at the time.
WND also reported earlier this year a Scouts victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit dismissed a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the Defense Department from allowing the Scouts to hold its National Jamboree every four years at Fort A.P. Hill in Fredericksburg, Va.
The ACLU, suing on behalf of individual named taxpayers, had argued allowing the Boy Scouts to hold the event on public property is an unconstitutional establishment of religion, because the organization’s membership is limited to those who believe in God.
The ACLU points out the Boy Scouts require members to swear an oath to “do my duty to God and my country.”
The court ruled the ACLU did not show standing to bring the lawsuit.