13 Dec 2007 Black Activists Condemn Philadelphia City Council’s Boy Scout Eviction
Black activists from the Project 21 leadership network are condemning the Philadelphia City Council’s decision to evict the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) from its regional headquarters after the city failed to reach a compromise with the Boy Scouts on a gay rights policy.
“I live close to Philadelphia and am aware of the problems plaguing the city,” said Project 21 member Jimmie Hollis. “The fact that the City Council is taking exception to the Boy Scouts is an outrage. With so much to fix, why are they so willing to instead hobble an organization trying to help people?”
On June 1, the BSA’s Cradle of Liberty Council will be forced out of the Bruce Marks Council Service Center because it will not rescind its policy of prohibiting homosexual members. City Councilman Darrell L. Clarke told the New York Times, “you cannot be in a city-owned facility being subsidized by the taxpayers and not have language in your lease that talks about nondiscrimination.” This date became final last week when the City Council broke off negotiations with the BSA.
BSA spokesman Gregg Shields told the Times, “we believe that open homosexuality would be inconsistent with the values that we want to communicate with our leaders.” This policy was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, when the Court ruled the BSA is a private organization that can set its own membership rules under the protection of the First Amendment.
The Marks Center was built by the BSA, but the half-acre parcel of land on which it is located is owned by the city. A city council vote last May stuck down the ordinance that granted the BSA a special $1 a year lease. BSA leaders say they cannot pay the estimated market-value lease of $200,000 a year while continuing to serve their 69,000 local members, provide in-school training and after-school mentoring programs and send 800 needy children summer camp.
While the Cradle of Liberty Council was thought to be willing to enact a policy statement previously agreed to by the BSA’s New York chapters saying that “prejudice, intolerance and unlawful discrimination in any form are unacceptable” without dropping its homosexual prohibition, Philadelphia officials preemptively said that, if it did so, the BSA would still be violating the city law.
“If the Boy Scouts were anti-God, championed homosexuality and were anti-establishment, I would venture to say they would find themselves welcome in Philadelphia. It’s the fact that they stick to and seek to promote a responsible and reasonable code of ethics that makes them a target of the anti-family left that tends to dominate urban governments such as Philadelphia’s these days,” said Project 21 chairman Mychal Massie.
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Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992.