It’s hard to feel bad for the Boy Scouts. They’ve brought their troubles upon themselves.
They discriminate against atheists — I myself would not be welcome in their company.
They discriminate against homosexuals.
The Supreme Court said, “Boy Scouts, you can discriminate! You’re a private organization!” a few years ago. Congress reaffirmed that with a law that said that schools can’t ban the Boy Scouts because of their discriminatory practices.
In other words, it’s okay for the Boy Scouts to be a “No Homers Club.”
There, the City Council has laid down an ultimatum to the local Boy Scout council. “If you want to discriminate, that’s fine. But you’re not doing it on our dime. So, you either pay rent for your office space, or you find somewhere else to be discriminatory.”
The local council’s headquarters are housed in a building the city owns. In July 2006 the City announced their intention to revoke the previous agreement between the city and the Boy Scouts based on the Boy Scouts’ practices, and they gave the Scouts a year to either renounce their discrimination or pay for their office space.
It’s been a little more than a year.
The Scouts have called 22nd and Winter their home for generations. But now the city says it’s pay up… or get out.
Mayor Street says efforts at compromise are over and the Boy Scouts have to pay a 20-million percent rent increase or clear out of their long time headquarters in the city owned building on Logan Square.
Months of renewed negotiations on compromise language have broken down. The mayor says city law does not permit government subsidies of groups that discriminate.
The local scouting organization, The Cradle of Liberty Council, representing over 60-thousand scouts, says it is between a rock and a hard place and cannot go against their charter with the national scout establishment.
What is the current local policy? It amounts to don’t ask don’t tell.
City Hall says the “fair market rent” for this landmark property is 200-thousand dollars a year. That’s exactly 199,999 dollars more than the boy scouts have been paying since the building went up back in the late 1920’s.
Massive program cuts could be in the offing. 200,000 dollars a year in rent could finance 30 new cub scout packs and send 8-hundred needy youngsters to summer camp.
City Council voted 16 to 1 to authorize ending the Boy Scouts lease. But the sponsor of that measure says he was really trying to spur a lasting compromise.
Barring a compromise The Cradle of Liberty Council could be forced out of their home for 79 years by the end of May.
It’s unfortunate that matters have reached this pass, but the Scouts brought this upon themselves. It would be so much easier to renounce their discriminatory past, to say that they’re wrong. Instead, their Philadelphia offices are either going to relocate or be thrown out on the street for their intransigence.
It would be nice to think that the possibility of losing their office space would compel the Boy Scouts to change. The sad truth is, there’s probably some real estate maven in Philadelphia, a contributor to Republican campaigns, no doubt, who would give the Boy Scouts office space.
As I said, it’s hard to feel sorry for the Scouts. Scouting has done a great many good things for nearly a century, but they’re mired in an intractible and retrograde worldview, and they’re going to make themselves irrelevant all too soon.
If the Boy Scouts want to keep their exclusionary policies, they can go right on ahead doing so. But society is going to pass them by, and some future generation will look back on the Boy Scouts the way we look back on Prohibition — a product of its times that society outgrew.