Alex Blaze

Boy Scouts win right to $200,000/year government hand-out

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 24, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: boy scouts, LGBT youth, money, philadelphia, scouting

Philadelphia lost their court case and they're not allowed to charge the Boy Scouts rent to use one of their properties. That doesn't mean the city is giving up:

The jury's answers to the 11 questions on the verdict sheet were "inconsistent," City Solicitor Shelley Smith said, "and when verdict sheets have inconsistent answers, the potential exists that the verdict is flawed. We will be exploring our options."[...]

Under the ordinance that leased the property to the scouts, the city has the right to evict them without giving any reason at all, both sides have agreed.

Asked if the city would take that step, Smith said, "The verdict was just issued today, and we'll be considering all of our options."

First, why was a jury making a decision about the application of the law in a case where both parties agreed to the facts? Maybe a lawyer out there can explain why this wasn't left to a judge, as the 11 questions the jury considered centered around Constitutional law?

After the famous Boy Scouts Supreme Court decision, the implicit agreement was that, if the Boy Scouts are a private member-based club that can discriminate against whomever they please, then they could be denied government subsidies. Hundreds of schools and dozens of cities have cut ties with the organization and not lost lawsuits, and, considering how the questions before the jury hung on how Philadelphia proposed the choice to the Boy Scouts, not the fact that they did, it seems like the city still has plenty of options:

It did find that the city "would have permitted [the scouts] to continue to use its headquarters building on a rent-free basis if [the scouts] repudiated or renounced the policy of the Boy Scouts of America to gays."

The jurors said that position was "not reasonable." Those two responses combined created a finding of an "unconstitutional condition."

During the trial, Bill Dwyer, a retired Cradle of Liberty chief executive, said he and other leaders realized "in our heart of hearts" that "we couldn't repudiate totally the national position. They would put us out of business."

The local scouts cannot be forced to "repudiate a policy that the Supreme Court says is protected," Gosselin had said.

David Smith, a lawyer for the city, told the jury that the city initially accepted the local group's statement that it opposed discrimination, until learning that the chapter used the national group's employment application, which bars hiring homosexuals, as well as atheists and agnostics.

The Constitution protects people's rights to a lot of things, but it doesn't mean that they get free rent. Lawrence v. Texas may have lifted sodomy laws, but you can't get a city to give you a free room for a gay orgy.

Which is where I disagree with the jury. It isn't at all unreasonable to expect a private organization to follow the city's anti-discrimination policy while on city property. The city could only find one gay person who had been kicked out so far, and maybe there was a handful more who were kicked out or stayed out because of the policy. A few gay people in scouting won't destroy the organization.

Now, the local organization may be saying that the national organization would disown them when they say "put us out of business," in which case there's really no reason they couldn't either challenge the national organization or continue on their own. Just saying that they're a different org because they're local, and then saying that they're not homophobic but their boss is, doesn't make it OK. That's just shifting the blame, not eliminating it.

Perhaps this was a fluke decision that'll get reversed in appeal, because I'd hate to see a decision that declares anti-discrimination policies "not reasonable" stand.


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A. J. Lopp | June 24, 2010 12:41 PM

Few areas of American law are more fucked up than the case law surrounding the Boy Scouts.

First, they have been ruled to be a "private organization" that can discriminate ... how can that be when they were chartered by an act of US Congress? If they are private, then remove all government support, endorsement and special recognition.

I am just as incensed over their discrimination against atheists and agnostics as I am over their discrimination against gay men. Are they going to censor PBS because Neil deGrasse Tyson is an atheist?

... and interestingly enough, the Girl Scouts of America do not find it necessary to discriminate against the females that fit into those categories.

But the Boy Scouts are supposedly as "American as motherhood and apple pie" ... and few judges or juries can think logically when a case involves the BSA.

Ruling against the BSA is as unthinkable as declaring that Mom's apple pie has poison in it ... even though apple seeds do sometimes naturally carry trace levels of cyanide.

Forgive me ... I'm ranting again.

If you want your son to join an organization that allows gay and Lesbian members (or atheists for that matter), go spend YOUR time, YOUR money and YOUR skills to start your own organization. Simple as that.

Yes, the GSA does not have a similar restriction, but look at the numbers. GSA is *dieing*. Their numbers in many regions (including historically liberal areas like VT) are falling so fast they are combining Councils to keep the program afloat. BSA does not have that problem. Because of the Gay issue? I doubt it, but it most certainly is because of the BSA's image, and that DOES include the ban on Gay members or atheists.

I agree the BSA Council in question should pay rent just like every other organization. Not forcing *everyone* to pay is discrimination in itself. Whether it's the BSA or YMCA or LGBTQ of Philly.

A. J. Lopp | June 25, 2010 7:57 PM

In regards to your first paragraph, there already is a similar organization that doesn't so discriminate: Big Brothers / Big Sisters. No, they don't give out badges for knot-tying, but they do occupy the same mentoring role that BSA does.

As a lawyer, the first thing that I wondered when I heard of the decision was why this went to a jury to begin with. A jury is "the finder of fact", and the judge applies the law. With the essential facts agreed upon,there is no role left for a jury, and the judge should have handled this without a jury as a Summary Judgment. This is so fundamental in civil procedure, that I wonder if there are not several missing "facts" from the news reports that we have not heard about. There has to be more to this story. Perhaps Philadelphia Gay News, epgn.com , will delve more deeply into the whole thing. So far, they have had the most extensive coverage that I have seen on this, and report that the decision was a "split decision".