Suit over Boy Scout Homosexual Discrimination Opens

Wed Jun 16, 2010 - 12:15 pm EST

By James Tillman

PHILADELPHIA, PA, June 16, 2010 ( – On Tuesday opening arguments were heard in a case involving the Cradle of Liberty Scout Council, which is challenging the city of Philadelphia's decision to evict the Council from a building that it built and has maintained since 1929. The city said it would carry through with the eviction unless the Council rejected the Boy Scouts of America's policy banning open homosexuals from membership.

In the Boy Scouts of America v. Dale case of 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) were constitutionally permitted to prohibit open homosexuals from being members or troop leaders.

The city argues, however, that while the Council is free to exercise its First Amendment right to create its own policies, it is not free to benefit from the city while violating city anti-discrimination policy.

The city had told the Scouts that unless they cough up $200,000 a year in rent for the land, they must either leave or change their rules.

The Cradle of Liberty Council says that the city council is being "selective" in its application of the anti-discrimination ordinance.

They argue that other private groups that discriminate in their membership, such as a Roman Catholic parish and the Colonial Dames of America, also enjoy subsidized leases and have not been threatened with the end of their lease agreements.

The Colonial Dames, for instance, limit membership to Americans with a direct descendent who lived in a colony before 1750 and who served his country before July 4, 1776.

The building in question was constructed with money raised by the Scouts 80 years ago.  Since that time, the Council has paid all costs associated with the maintenance, repair, and improvement of the building.  The land on which the building sits had been turned over to the city by the Scouts with the understanding that the Scouts would be able to stay in the Beaux Arts style building "in perpetuity."

Cradle of Liberty officials have since renovated the building for over $2 million.  The Cradle of Liberty Council serves over 87,000 youths in the area; the Philadelphia building is one of its two headquarters.

The Boy Scouts call for members to be "morally straight" and "clean in thought, word, and deed," which a 1991 BSA statement says excludes homosexual conduct.

Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter will oversee the trial. Buckwalter issued an injunction in 2009 banning the scouts from being evicted before the trial.

See related stories on

Philadelphia Boy Scouts to Lose Historic Building for Not Accepting Homosexuality

Philly City Council Ends 79-Year Boy Scout Lease Over Refusal to Accept Homosexual Leaders

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