Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Philadelphia Boy Scouts Stand Strong

See below for update from BSA National Council

From the BSA/Cradle Of Liberty website:

The media has reported recently that the Philadelphia City Council has voted to remove the Boy Scouts from their headquarters downtown. The issues dealing with the building go back several years.

On Friday, May 23, 2008, the , filed a complaint (pdf) in Federal Court against the to protect the organization’s constitutional rights. This action comes after many months of discussion and every effort on the Council’s part to reach an amicable resolution with city officials regarding the Council’s headquarters at 22nd and Winter Streets.

Because its policies do not align with the views of officials in the city, the Cradle of Liberty Council was asked to vacate its historic headquarters or pay “fair market rent” for use of a facility the Scouts built, maintained and improved for the last 80 years at no cost to the City of Philadelphia. The First Amendment protects an organization’s right to determine its own policies. To suppress those opinions or policies, as the city seeks to do here, is unconstitutional.

It is truly unfortunate that this debate must continue and be played out through the legal system. However, the Cradle of Liberty Council must take the necessary actions to protect its rights and ensure continued service to the 53,000-plus young men and women in Philadelphia who are its true focus.

Thank you for your continued support.

We certainly encourage all Philadelphia volunteers and scouts to practice their civic responsibility and write your congressman about your thoughts and feelings on this issue.
Not surprisingly, the City Council has responded, as The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

City Solicitor Shelley R. Smith said the city would respond to the federal lawsuit and would likely file an eviction motion next week.

In the meantime, Smith added, the beginning of litigation would preserve the status quo pending a court ruling. Until that ruling occurs, Smith said, the scouts will be able to continue using the headquarters building.

This debate is far from over, but hopefully a national spotlight on the City Council's foolishness will help speed this debate to a sensible conclusion. Fortunately, the stay will hold off, at least for now, any eviction.

Scouts are accustomed to opening and closing ceremonies at meetings and events. Camping trips for example, are highlighted on the first day by the raising of the camp flag, along with a daily raising and lowering of the American flag. On the last day, the ceremony is most solemn, indicative of the end event. Scouts are a staple at many public ceremonies, too, ones with elected officials of all stripes in attendance.

Should the eviction order ever go forward - and make no mistake: I hope it doesn't, but even if it does go so far as the Supreme Court, do not forget that they upheld most of - Philadelphia will have to consider the media event of all those the Scouts in Class-A uniforms holding a closing ceremonies on the steps of their 80 year home on the last day of their occupancy.

I wonder if Mayor Nutter would be in attendance.

UPDATE: from :

Boy Scouts of America is watching closely the situation in Philadelphia and is prepared to support the Cradle of Liberty Council should the City take any action against the Council.

Although the Philadelphia situation is a local matter, it involves the constitutionally protected rights of the Scouts and all private organizations, which were affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2000. Canceling the lease or escalating the rent simply because Boy Scouts exercise their First Amendment rights, would violate the U.S. Constitution.

A move to evict the Cradle of Liberty Council also would unjustly enrich the City at Scouting's expense. Boy Scouts built the Council's headquarters in 1929 using its own funds and in the 79 years since has invested millions of dollars to renovate and maintain the building. The Council spent more than $1.5 million of its charitable resources for substantial renovations in 1994, and presently spends about $60,000 each year just to maintain the historic building.

Boy Scouts of America will support the Council's legal efforts to protect its rights and to receive fair treatment.

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