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