Philadelphia Battles Boy Scouts on Anti-Gay Policies

Wed. May 28, 2008 12:00 AM by Kevin Wayne

Philadelphia drops taxpayer support for local Boy Scouts chapter

Philadelphia, PA - Philadelphia city officials plan to fight a lawsuit by the local Boy Scouts organization that seeks to block the city's efforts to evict it from rent-free premises because of their anti-gay policies.

Under a lease agreement, Philadelphia gave the Cradle of Liberty Council Boy Scouts Chapter one year to adhere to a local "non-discrimination" rule. If they fail to comply, the city says the Scouts must pay market-rate rent or vacate the building because the Scouts discriminate against gays.

The deadline is this Saturday at which time the building lease would increase from $1 a year to $200,000 a year. City officials contend they cannot provide subsidized rent to a group that discriminates.

The Scouts filed a federal lawsuit last Friday.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts of America, have the right of "expressive association" under the First Amendment. That victory proved bittersweet as Boy Scout chapters nationwide lost public and financial support - including funding from the United Way.

"They're free to exercise their First Amendment rights," said City Solicitor Shelley Smith. "What they're not free to do is get a benefit from the city while violating our policy."

It remains unclear if the federal lawsuit will prohibit the city's action against the Boy Scouts.