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Boy Scouts of America Should Not Be Using Public Facilities Until Its STOPS Discriminating Against Gays and Nontheists, Oregon

Posted: Jun 23, 2004 - 09:19:57 PDT

Boy scouts to take over Santa Claus' Workshop in Newport By Steve Card Of the News-Times

For more than a decade, a building at Frank V. Wade Memorial Park in Newport has been the home of Mrs. Santa, Dorothy Grover.

Grover has operated Santa Claus' Workshop for around 40 years, providing toys for hundreds of Lincoln County children. In the early 1990s, the Newport Lions Club constructed the building at Frank Wade Park for Grover's use. However, her health no longer makes it possible for her to operate the workshop, and so at the end of this
month, the workshop will close its doors.

Newport City Manager Sam Sasaki told the Newport City Council this week that even though the building was constructed on city property, it is the subject of a long-term lease. And according to that lease, if Grover is unable to continue using the building, it is to be turned over to the Yaquina District of the Boy Scouts of America.

Sasaki brought this matter to the council's attention because of a letter he had received from Thomas Gravon of Newport. Gravon opposes the use of a building on public property by the Boy Scouts, saying that organization is "a private, non-profit club for boys that practices discrimination in its membership criteria." (Gravon also sent a copy of his letter to the News-Times, and it appears as a letter to the editor in this issue.)

Sasaki told the city council the lease clearly spells out the terms of the building's use by the Boy Scouts, and although no action is required of the city council at this time, he wanted members to be aware of the possible controversy that could arise.

Here's that letter to the editor mentioned above: txt

Posted: Jun 23, 2004 - 09:20:38 PDT

Public facility use

I'm writing in complaint of the possible installation of a Boy Scouts of America troop in the facility that was built for, and in the recent past occupied by, Dorothy Grover's Mrs. Santa Claus Workshop ("Santa's workshop to close after four decades of service" by Susan T. Wehren, June 9 News-Times).

I have learned the local Lion's Club apparently built this structure on city-owned property for Mrs. Grover's use with the proviso that if and when it was no longer so-used it would be dedicated to the scouts' use. The newspaper article quotes a local scout leader, Glade Newman, as anticipating such an occupation.

The site is currently under the Newport Parks and Recreation Department's jurisdiction as parks property. City-owned property is public property and as such, subject to the guarantees and protections enumerated in the United States and Oregon constitutions.

The Boy Scouts of America is a private, non-profit club for boys that practices discrimination in its membership criteria; i.e.: it prohibits admitted atheists and homosexuals from membership and participation.

This right (of discrimination) has been recognized in a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. However, if the city allows this organization to use the facility it would be in blatant violation of constitutional guarantees of equal protection before the law, in that a private group would be able to prohibit citizens from access and would enjoy rights in excess of those of other citizens.

I question the legality and legitimacy of any agreement between the City of Newport and the Lion's Club that would result in discriminatory uses of public property.

Therefore, I object to any exclusive use of a publicly owned facility by such a discriminatory group as the scouts. Let them find space in a church or a club or in a private residence, or open the facility to other groups on a fee-rental basis. For example, many 12-step recovery groups are frequently seeking low-cost meeting spaces, and since the closure of Naterlin Center there is adearth of affordable meeting spaces in the area.

If the city allows such discriminatory uses of its facilities not only is it liable for legal action, it places itself in the
position of condoning this type of discrimination. Let the scouts do what they like on their own time and in their own spaces, but please do not give over exclusive rights to this group.

There is currently a large body of case law regarding this issue, as I'm sure the city attorney will discover. My hope is that the parks and recreation department will rise above the urge to "go along and get along," and support the equal protections afforded by our constitutions.

Thomas Gravon

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