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Letter To Tyler, Texas, City Council Trustees: The City of Tyler Texas is considering giving their local BSA scout council land use for $1.00 per year.


June 9. 2004

City of Tyler trustees,

We are writing to you today to address the legal and moral consequences of a proposal currently before the
Tyler city council. It is our understanding that the city council is considering a two-year lease of Headache Springs to the East Texas Area Council of Boy Scouts of America for $1 per year. We urge caution and careful consideration of the proposal.

Scouting for All is a non-profit advocacy and educational organization that seeks to end discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and promote inclusive alternatives for kids. We have 10,000 members nationwide and have collected nearly 90,000 signatures for our petition calling on the BSA to end its exclusionary membership policies. The BSA bans gays and non-theists, both youth and adults.

We firmly believe that the social consequences of the BSA's discrimination is profound. The BSA continues to
send a hurtful message that gays are not "morally straight" nor "clean" and that non-theists are "immoral." The policies also promote intolerance in our communities, making it okay to single out those that are somehow different.

Over the years, we have helped numerous Scouts and their families who been adversely affected by these
membership policies. We would be willing to share their stories with you. I believe you would also find them quite compelling.

To lease land to an organization that claims discrimination among its "traditional standards of membership" would be contrary to your responsibility.

It is the duty of local governments to ensure that it acts in the best interest of all its citizens, including those who may be gay or non-theist.

It is equally wrong to engage in exclusive dealings with the East Texas Area Council of the BSA, to the
exclusion of all other community organizations. To do so would be unfair to the many worthwhile and non-discriminatory community groups in Tyler. To that end, an effort should be made to gather bids and
evaluate plans by other groups.

As trustees of the City of Tyler, you should also evaluate the legal ramifications of any dealings with the East Texas Area Council of the BSA. In several court cases, the BSA provided extensive testimony that it is a private religious organization and not a public accommodation. Litigation has been brought against several municipalities who have engaged in business with the BSA.

Please look upon us as a partner in this process. Our organization, its consultants and members are able and
willing to provide additional assistance at your request.


Sincerely,

Scott Cozza
President, Scouting for All


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Attachements
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Moral Considerations:

Homosexuality

Homosexuality is the attraction (emotional and physical) to members of the same sex. It is not considered by the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, or American Medical Association to be a disorder. The median age for gay youth identifying their sexual orientation is about 13, while Scouting has youth members up to the age of 18 in traditional units, and 21 in others.

There is no political or social agenda behind ending the BSA's discriminatory membership policies; rather, it is in concern for the health and safety of thousands of youth within the Scouting program. In the August 2001 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found boys with a same-sex orientation were linked to a 68% greater likelihood of having suicidal thoughts, than their opposite-sex oriented classmates. This study confirmed a Department of Health and Human Services Study (1989) which concluded that gay youth are often more likely to attempt suicide than others of their same age group.

The American Medical Association (AMA), in addition to several other mainstream medical and professional
organizations, have contended that policies such as the BSA's pose a public health risk to gay adolescents. A new policy of the AMA directs the organization to ``ask youth-oriented organizations to reconsider exclusionary policies that are based on sexual orientation.'' A Scout troop leader in Rhode Island introduced the proposal.

According to press reports, council presidents and board chairmen from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago,
West Los Angeles, Orange County, California, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Boston, urged for change to the BSA's membership policies at a national meeting in Boston. They requested that "membership and leadership positions [be] open to persons regardless of their sexual orientation," and that "a Scout treat all people with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation."


Religion


According to the BSA, ethical or humanistic beliefs are not enough to meet "duty to God" requirement or a
Scouts obligation to be "reverent." Scouts must believe in a God, and adult volunteers must sign a "Declaration of Religious Principles."

Many Scouting Associations worldwide do not require their members to pledge themselves to do their "duty to God." In the United States, the Girls Scouts of America adopted a measure in 1993 to permit any of its 2.6 million members to substitute another word or phrase for "God" in their Oath. The vote was 1,560-375.

Excluding members due to a stated belief or non-belief is contrary to the teachings of many religions and creates a conflict of principles for BSA members whose religious organizations teach inclusiveness. For example, the Episcopal Church, Reform Judaism, The Unitarian Universalist Association, and many congregations of the United Church of Christ all have policies against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The BSA gives special treatment to some denominations over others and penalizes those who disagree with its
membership policies. In 1998, the BSA withdrew its authorization of the Unitarian Universalist Association's Religion in Life award. The UUA board of Trustees passed a resolution in 1992 opposing the discriminatory practices of the BSA.


Legal Considerations:

Barnes-Wallace, et al. v. City of San Diego and Boy Scouts of America/Desert Pacific Council - The ACLU of
San Diego filed a federal lawsuit challenging San Diego's preferential treatment of the Boy Scouts, a group that discriminates based on religion and sexual orientation. The city signed multi-year leases giving the Boy Scouts space for $1 a year, as well as rent-free use of several city-owned recreational properties.

o On July 31, 2003, U.S. District Judge Napoleon Jones Jr. said the Council's lease of the 18-acre Camp
Balboa in Balboa Park violates provisions in the U.S. and state constitutions governing the separation of church and state. He stated that BSA is a religious organization because they require members to profess a belief in God.

o On January 8, 2004, the City of San Diego settled the case with the ACLU. Under its settlement with the ACLU, the city will take no position on the validity of the leases in future legal proceedings, and the city will pay the ACLU's attorneys $790,000 for legal fees incurred during the three years of litigation and $160,000 in court costs.

o On April 13, 2004, Judge Jones ruled that the lease of a Fiesta Island aquatics center on city-owned land
is just as unconstitutional as its lease of public land in Balboa Park.



Recommendations:

We respectfully request that the trustees of the City of Tyler consider and adopt the following recommendations.

A full and complete review of the possible legal ramifications of leasing land to a private religious organization which requires all members - both youth and adults - to believe in a God and thus bars non-theist citizens (atheists, agnostics, Humanists) from participation.

The land be available for lease to any community organizations on an equal basis and under the same conditions as those currently under consideration with East Texas Area Council of Boy Scouts of America.

The City of Tyler adopt a policy of non-discrimination in all its leasing agreements.

Currently, existing city code regarding fair housing and personnel policies includes religion among several
protected classes.



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