The headquarters building for the Cradle of Liberty Boy Scouts in Philadelphia
A deadline is looming today for officials with the Cradle of Liberty Boy Scouts organization in Philadelphia either to agree to a rent hike of $199,999 a year for their headquarters building or move.
Neither officials with the Cradle of Liberty chapter nor the national headquarters for Boy Scouts of America immediately returned WND’s calls requesting comment.
The dilemma was created when several members of the city hierarchy in Philadelphia, reportedly including an open homosexual, ordered the council to abandon the national group’s ban on openly homosexual members and leaders or the city would renege on a decades-old agreement.
For almost 80 years, since 1928, the Scouts have used the building for their headquarters under a lease, but that is set to expire and officials now are demanding $200,000 a year for rent, up from the previous rate of $1.
“If they want to accept the national policies of the Boy Scout organization they have to be able to pay for it,” Philadelphia City Councilman Jack Kelly told Fox News.
A letter from Diaz set the deadline today for the Scouts to sign a new lease at the new rate or face eviction by the city.
John Braxton, a member of the Cradle of Liberty council and a retired judge, said the organization simply cannot afford the steep rent increase.
The organization serves about 64,000 youth in the region, officials said.
“It’s disappointing, and it’s certainly a threat,” Jeff Jubelirer, a spokesman for the council, said recently.
He said the additional money would have to be taken from programs for youth, which could cost the organization 30 new Cub Scout chapters.
Council officials have said they were unable to renounce the national organization’s long-established policy of not allowing participation by atheists or open homosexuals. That policy was affirmed as legal and legitimate in a 2000 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
But city officials allege that is discrimination and said they wouldn’t rent taxpayer-owned property for a dollar a year to such people.
In a column, Robert Knight of the Culture and Media Institute of the Media Research Center said the Philadelphia decision is unfair.
Knight, in his critique of a Washington Post report on the dispute, noted 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.”
Local Scout officials had tried to institute a statement that “prejudice, intolerance and unlawful discrimination in any form are unacceptable within the ranks of Cradle of Liberty,” but national scouting officials required adherence to the ban on homosexuals, they said.
“If I do not receive an executed lease, signed by the Boy Scouts, to remain as tenants paying a fair market rent, we will begin looking for alternative tenants that can take over the property June 1, 2008,” Diaz said.
The Scouts’ own guidelines, published on their website, note the organization was founded “on the premise of teaching boys moral and ethical values through an outdoor program that challenges them and teaches them respect for nature, one another, and themselves.”
“The BSA respects the rights of people and groups who hold values that differ from those encompassed in the Scout Oath and Law, and the BSA makes no effort to deny the rights of those whose views differ to hold their attitudes or opinions,” the group continued.
“Scouts come from all walks of life and are exposed to diversity in Scouting that they may not otherwise experience. The Boy Scouts of America aims to allow youth to live and learn as children and enjoy Scouting without immersing them in the politics of the day.
“We hope that our supporters will continue to value the Boy Scouts of America’s respect for diversity and the positive impact Scouting has on young people’s lives. We realize that not every individual nor organization subscribes to the same beliefs that the BSA does, but we hope that all Americans can be as respectful of our beliefs as we are of theirs and support the overall good Scouting does in American communities,” the group said.
In order to protect children, other rules also have been imposed, including, “One-on-one contact between adults and youth members is not permitted,” and, “When camping, no youth is permitted to sleep in the tent of an adult other than his own parent or guardian.”
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.
Such disputes virtually never arose until homosexual organizations challenged the Scouts’ policy, but lost at the U.S. Supreme Court level in that 2000 ruling.
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.
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.