Boy Scouts Threatened With Eviction From 'Cradle of Liberty'

By Katherine Poythress | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - Seven years after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Boy Scouts of America to exclude homosexuals from its leadership ranks, the organization continues to face retaliation.

The latest action comes from the Philadelphia City Council, which last week passed a resolution to evict the Boy Scouts of America's Cradle of Liberty Council (COL) from the rent-free headquarters it has held for nearly 80 years, unless the COL backs away from its homosexual exclusion policy.

The resolution would affect about 40,000 Pennsylvania Boy Scouts. It was introduced by City Council member Darrell Clarke and passed 16-1. The measure terminates, one year from now, the rent-free agreement that the city of Philadelphia has extended to the COL since 1928.

Philadelphia City Solicitor Romulo Diaz told Cybercast News Service that the resolution would be dropped if the Boy Scouts end what he called their discrimination against homosexuals in scouting. Another alternative, he said, would be for the COL to keep the property by paying "fair market value" for it.

Kera Walter, a Cradle of Liberty Council spokesman, told Cybercast News Service that the COL received no warning that the resolution was going to be introduced on May 31.

"We were very much caught off guard," she said, especially since the COL had already been engaged in discussion with the city about the issue and, according to Walter, had already adopted policy language to placate the council.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 to uphold the Boy Scouts of America's First Amendment right to bar homosexuals from leadership ranks in the private organization. In 2004, the COL worked openly with the city of Philadelphia to adopt a local non-discrimination policy.

"The language of this policy was given to us directly by the city," Walter said, adding that the Boy Scouts of America national organization approved the language of the policy. "This policy is currently available and can be viewed on our website. We adopted that and we have certainly abided by it."

However, Diaz is unsatisfied, declaring that the COL policy is too vague. "It's as a consequence of [COL's] refusal to clarify their policy that we've taken the steps that we have."

Diaz said he believes that the policy's language came from the policy of another Boy Scouts council in New York City.

"The problem is that the language says that they will not engage in 'illegal' discrimination. That could be interpreted to mean that under the [Supreme Court] decision in Boy Scouts of America vs. Dale, they could discriminate and that would not be considered illegal."

Diaz said the city has spent three years trying unsuccessfully to get clarification from the COL about how they interpret that phrase in their policy.

"I'm hoping that the COL Council is going to recognize that it's now time for them to conclude this dispute, which has been lingering much too long," Diaz said.

"If they tell us that they will allow gays in scouting -- and that is the appropriate interpretation of their policy -- and that's in writing, then as far as I'm concerned then we've concluded this chapter," Diaz said. "But you can't evade clarification and then continue to seek rent-free subsidies from the Philadelphia taxpayers."

"We're not trying to hurt the Cradle of Liberty Council," Diaz added, "but at the same time, this is a commonsense approach that recognizes we have non-discrimination policies that are established in Philadelphia law."

The irony here is boundless," said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center, which is also the parent organization of Cybercast News Service.

"The City of Brotherly Love, home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, is punishing the Cradle of Liberty Council for the crime of upholding timeless moral standards. They are treating the Boy Scouts of America, who teach kids personal responsibility and respect for others, as if they were the Ku Klux Klan."

"The Cradle of Liberty does not discriminate," Walter said. "There has never once been a charge or allegation of discrimination based on sexual orientation brought against the Cradle of Liberty Council in its history, and I'm not quite sure what their basis is for eviction."

Walter said the COL Council is still evaluating what to do next. "But we really do not want to move out of this location, because it would simply hurt so many of the youth of Philadelphia that need our programming at this time."

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