ACLU Objects to Boy Scout Deal

Philly chapter pens open letter to Mayor Nutter and city council

The Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the ACLU of Pennsylvania sent a letter to Mayor Michael Nutter and members of city council objecting to the terms of the proposed settlement between the City of Philadelphia and the Boy Scouts of America. As reported yesterday on G Philly, the proposal would transfer the city-owned Bruce S. Marks Resource Center from the city to the Boy Scouts Cradle of Liberty Council for less than fair market value. Sara Mullen from the ACLU shared the open letter with G Philly:

Dear Mayor Nutter,

The Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania strongly objects to the proposed deal to transfer the City-owned Bruce S. Marks Scout Resource Center from the City to the Boy Scouts Cradle of Liberty Council at a small fraction of its fair market value.

The “settlement” would give a Historic Landmark building and land conservatively valued at two million dollars ($2,000,000) or more to a private organization for only $500,000 – a private organization that openly practices discrimination against boys who are gay or who hold religious beliefs they do not approve. Significantly, no similar public subsidy is being offered by the City to groups like the Girl Scouts, or Big Brothers Big Sisters that do not discriminate against LGBT youth. We respectfully request that the City of Philadelphia reject this settlement.

The “settlement” is a bad deal not only for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Philadelphians, but also for the taxpayers of the City of Philadelphia at a time when the City is struggling to balance its budget without drastic cuts in City services.

The proposal would give the Boy Scouts a parcel of prime real estate along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near the Franklin Institute and across from the new Barnes Foundation museum. It would constitute a huge City subsidy of the Boy Scouts. Moreover, it would give the Boy Scouts an opportunity eventually to resell the property at fair market value, thereby turning the City’s gift of real estate into a cash contribution, and likely netting well over a million dollars at the expense of Philadelphia’s taxpayers. It is unreasonable for the City of Philadelphia to reward discrimination with the donation of over a million dollars worth of public property.

The Boy Scouts and the Cradle of Liberty Council have effectively hung a sign outside their door that reads “no gays allowed.” They have openly enforced this discrimination by publicly expelling a 17-year-old, dedicated Boy Scout from South Philadelphia, by using an employment application explicitly excluding “homosexuals,” as well as “atheists” and “agnostics.” While they have the right as a private organization to discriminate, the City should not subsidize them with a million dollar gift.

The Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the ACLU of Pennsylvania represents more than 10,000 ACLU members and addresses civil liberties issues affecting residents of Philadelphia, Chester, Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.


Louis Thomas
ACLU of Pennsylvania, Greater Philadelphia Chapter

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  • Anthony

    Mr.Louis Thomas,President ACLU of Pennsylvania
    I understand your point but until the ACLU has done 1/10th of what BSA has done for the development of our nations youth your argument rings hollow at best. And any property has associated cost attached to it. Up keep and liability insurance alone cost considerably. Is the scouts sell the property the taxes go to the city turning a liability to revenue. I am sure that you could care less about the reality of this so I’ll let this in the public forum.

  • feudi

    Much bigger fish to fry. This is settled. Move on. My grandson just joined the cub scouts. I am very happy to know that his troop leader is not a homosexual. To some people, this makes me a bigot. That’s OK. I’ll deal with it.

  • Jack

    ACLU, not everyone approves or your values either.

  • ACLU protects the constitutional rights of ALL citizens… all ages, all genders, all ethnicities, and all sex-orientations. I admire the work of the BSA in developing leadership among young men—but the BSA does not promote that among all ages, all genders, all ethnicities, and all sex-orientations. Therefore I would argue that the ACLU does much more than 1/10th of what BSA has done for the development of our nation’s youth.

  • David

    The letter from the ACLU fails to mention that as it currently stands baring a reversal in appeal, the lower court ordered the City to reimburse the BSA for legal fees to date which is estimated at roughly $1 million. While I find it personally repugnant that the BSA would discriminate against LGBT people, I think the ACLU did a great disservice to themselves by not mentioning the legal fees. As a business person, it makes a huge difference when factoring in the very material legal fees. If the BSA selling the property to make a profit is of concern to the city, they can place a clause into the agreement that the city would receive/share any proceeds from the sale. I still support the ACLU but they failed to put everything on the table.

  • geppetto

    Someone needs to learn the difference between a homosexual and a pedophile… Let’s see if this helps: You can be in the Scouts if you are a pedophile but not if you are a homosexual. See? It’s just like the catholic church. Let us know if you have any more questions. BTW – I have wondered if Philly lost the court case on purpose. Their argument seemed to miss the target.

  • @David

    David, you raise a valid point, but the important clause there is “barring a reversal in appeal.” The city has a major law firm standing ready to represent them free of charge in an appeal, and there is good reason to think that an appeal would be successful – leaving the City free from the responsibility of paying for the Scouts’ defense of discrimination.

    As to who has done more for children, any basic understanding of legal history will show what the ACLU has done for all Americans – the First Amendment was basically unenforced until the ACLU started fighting for it.

    Meanwhile the Boy Scouts teach children (sorry… boys – straight, Christian boys only) how to tie knots and rub sticks together. Woo freakin hoo.

  • thestalkinghorse

    At 1/10th I would say you grossly understate the value of scouting vs. ACLU. Building and doing something positive is many times harder than simply raising objections when things are not to your liking.
    If you are a male, and you like other males; there is something wrong with you. I don’t want to hurt you and I don’t hate you, but you should not be around young men who are forming their character.

  • Bryan

    What Louis does not realize is that the scouts are the ones that paid for this building to be built and its maintenance. The city is making a hefty profit on a small parcel of land they have not improved on for over 80 years. It is a shame that the city was hijacked into trying to fight the scouts to illegally break a contract.

  • “You should not be around young men who are forming their character”

    How about males who mostly like females (who don’t have anything “wrong” with them, as you state)? Should there be mostly-heterosexual male teachers around young women who are forming their character?

    How about mostly-heterosexual females around young men? Or mostly-homosexual females around young women (as would be the case with the Girl Scouts)?

    How about bisexuals, or pansexuals? Or do they overload your binary “black or white/yes or no/my way or the highway” mind? Quantization error maybe.

    The world seems to love multiple standards. And of all sexuality possibilities, male-male romance seems to be held to the lowest of such standards.

  • Marco Luxe

    Can anyone explain why there was a federal JURY trial over the BSA/Philly property contract/1st Amendment claims?

  • Dora

    Take a look at the long history the ACLU has of protecting rights of ALL americans. We can do without
    the boys scouts, but we can’t do without the ACLU!