The headquarters building for the Cradle of Liberty Boy Scouts in Philadelphia
Pro-homosexual Philadelphia officials’ campaign to evict the Boy Scouts of America from their long-held regional headquarters on city-owned ground will create a precedent that could endanger dozens of other groups in the city, including the Catholic Church, as well as museums and a public radio station.
The issue: The City Council has decided the Boy Scouts, because they prohibit participation by open homosexuals, do not comply with the city’s anti-discrimination policies and can no longer rent their headquarters for $1 a year, as they have since the city approved its original resolution on the plan 80 years ago.
The city had set a Dec. 3 deadline for the Scouts’ Cradle of Liberty Council to agree to pay $200,000 a year, instead of $1, but the Scouts simply ignored that deadline, and negotiations apparently have broken off.
Assuming there are no changes in circumstances, that would mean the Scouts would have to be out of the building, which they built and paid for with their own funds decades ago, on June 1.
“I live close to Philadelphia and am aware of the problems plaguing the city,” said Project 21 member Jimmie Hollis. “The fact that the City Council is taking exception to the Boy Scouts is an outrage. With so much to fix, why are they so willing to instead hobble an organization trying to help people?”
Project 21 said the focus on the Scouts’ prohibition of open homosexuals is wrong. That condemnation had come from city councilman Darrell Clarke, who told the New York Times, “you cannot be in a city-owned facility being subsidized by the taxpayers and not have language in your lease that talks about nondiscrimination.”
Scouting spokesman Gregg Shields said such “open homosexuality” would be inconsistent with the group’s values. That policy was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 when it ruled the Boy Scouts of America is a private organization that can set its own membership rules under the First Amendment.
The headquarters building, the Marks Center, was built by the BSA, but the half-acre parcel of land is owned by the city. The city council voted last year to renege on its ongoing $1-a-year lease and decided to set the rent at $200,000 a year, something BSA leaders say they cannot pay and still serve the 69,000 youths who benefit from their programs.
“If the Boy Scouts were anti-God, championed homosexuality and were anti-establishment, I would venture to say they would find themselves welcome in Philadelphia,” said Massie. “It’s the fact that they stick to and seek to promote a responsible and reasonable code of ethics that makes them a target of the anti-family left that tends to dominate urban governments such as Philadelphia’s these days.”
The nonprofit group, sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since the 1990s.
A spokesman for the Philadelphia Scouts, Jeff Jubelirer, told WND there would be several significant issues to address should the city pursue an eviction. He said there are about 75 other organizations in Philadelphia with similar building or land-use arrangements as the Scouts.
Their original agreement was that the city allowed the Scouts to use the city land in perpetuity for $1 a year, but the Scouts would have to build their own building and maintain it. That was the agreement on which the Council decided to renege.
The city “is making a value judgment” about the Scouts, because the other organizations are not being given the same ultimatums and deadlines, he said.
“They’re all great organizations. There’s nothing wrong with them,” he said. And they have lease arrangements that range from payments of $1 to $100 a year for various uses.
One such institution is the Catholic Church, which does not allow women ministers, he noted.
“How are they going to justify differentiation in treatment,” he wondered. “There are wonderful arts organizations, museums, a public radio station. They’re on that list.”
He said the other issue is the improvements the Scouts have made to the land, including the building and the $2 million in renovations done in just recent years. The original agreement envisioned the Scouts continuing to use the land “in perpetuity,” so will those improvements then be reimbursed if the city reneges, he wondered.
And if that city agreement isn’t upheld, he asked, are there other agreements that likewise will simply be abandoned?
Jubilerer said the city, as of now, is applying its pressure to a single group, and not taking into consideration that all groups in similar circumstances should be treated similarly.
The campaign against the Boy Scouts has been pursued by Romulo Diaz, the city solicitor, who, according to Philadelphia media reports, is an open homosexual.
He had set the Dec. 3 deadline. The Scouts, however, “do not feel obliged to respond to that date,” Jubelirer said. And Diaz followed up with a statement the city would “respect” the Scouting organization’s right to respond before it takes further steps.
Such issues were virtually nonexistent before 2000. That year, a challenge was raised by homosexuals to the private organization’s policy and the dispute went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed the Boy Scouts right to set membership requirements.
Then activist groups turned their sights on property arrangements such as in Philadelphia, where the Scouts have been using the donated property for years.
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.
“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.
In a column, Robert Knight of the Culture and Media Institute of the Media Research Center cited the underlying unfairness of such a decision in Philadelphia.
Knight, in his critique of a Washington Post report on the dispute, noted that the Scouts “built the building with their own money, and then gave it to the city in 1928.”
He also noted the Scouts’ lease was “in perpetuity” but the city simply decided to renege.
“The Scouts bar openly homosexual Scoutmasters and members for moral reasons and for the sake of protecting young boys from possible harm, not because they are motivated by bigotry or prejudice,” he wrote. “The Post article read as if the Scouts have no rational reason for wanting to determine whether prospective leaders or members are attracted sexually to males.”
WND recently reported citizens outraged by the city’s ultimatum crashed the e-mail system of the Philadelphia mayor’s office.
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.”
City officials in San Francisco and Boston have made similar decisions to displace the Scouts because of the group’s behavior code.
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.