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Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

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Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.

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The City Council of Philadelphia Should Not Allow the BSA A Dicriminatory Organization To Use Its City Owned Building

No movement on threat by city to evict Boy Scouts

By Linda K. Harris
Inquirer Staff Writer

A year ago, the Boy Scouts of America's Cradle of Liberty Council lost its funding from local charitable organizations.

A few months later, Philadelphia officials threatened to revoke its rent-free lease on its stately headquarters.

The Boy Scouts promised to come up with a policy that would not violate the antidiscrimination policies of both the city and the charitable organizations.

Today, the Cradle of Liberty Council still has its headquarters at 22d and Winter Streets in Center City, and the city has not pressed the issue.

"It is a concern of ours that an organization that benefits from the city continues to have a discriminatory policy," said Stacey L. Sobel, executive director of Philadelphia's Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights.

"It's our hope that one day the Boy Scouts will accept all people who would like to participate in its activities, regardless of their sexual orientation. Until that time, it is our responsibility to educate the Boy Scouts and work toward ending their discriminatory policies."

Barbara Grant, spokeswoman for Mayor Street, said that no movement had been made on the issue because city officials had been focused on putting together the 2005 budget.

"We've just come out of an intense budget season," Grant said. "All of our attention was riveted on that."

Last fall, City Solicitor Nelson A. Diaz issued an opinion that the Boy Scouts were in violation of the city's fair-practices ordinance, which forbids discrimination. The issues arose because of the Boy Scouts' use of city property near Logan Circle for their headquarters.

In January, the last of a series of meetings were held with city officials, led by Joyce Wilkerson, Street's chief of staff. At the time, the Boy Scouts leadership was talking of plans to adopt a policy similar to one that is used in New York. That policy states that "prejudice, intolerance and unlawful discrimination in any form are unacceptable."

That policy, however, has not been formally adopted by the Cradle of Liberty Council.

The council serves 87,000 members in Philadelphia, Montgomery and Delaware Counties and is the third-largest in the country.

Without a new policy, the Boy Scouts have not been able to motivate either the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania or the Pew Charitable Trusts to restore their funding.

The United Way met with representatives of Cradle of Liberty last month. Mary Strasser, the United Way's vice president for community impact, said the Boy Scouts were told that the money that had been allocated for distribution in 2003 was being given to other youth groups.

In June 2003, Pew revoked a $100,000 grant to the Boy Scouts because of the discriminatory policy. In July, the United Way followed suit and revoked the second half of a $400,862 award, but had been holding it for the Boy Scouts, should the issue be resolved.

"They have floated some policy language, but it doesn't fully comply with our nondiscriminatory policy," Strasser said.

Further, she said, "what we told them was the board felt that there wasn't sufficient evidence in their policies and practices to demonstrate that the Cradle of Liberty Boy Scout Council was able to comply with the United Way's nondiscrimination policy."

But Strasser noted that an allocation was set aside in a future budget in case the Boy Scouts change their policy.

The United Way's contribution represents a substantial portion of Cradle of Liberty's $6.2 million yearly budget.

Revising the policy is the Boy Scouts' goal, said William T. Dwyer III, Cradle of Liberty's scout executive. Dwyer, however, said he could not provide a copy of the Scouts' updated policy. He did say the city had given them language that it wanted to see, and the Scouts had incorporated that into the policy.

"We've done what we're asked to do, and now we're waiting to see what happens," Dwyer said.

No further meetings are scheduled with either the city or the United Way.

In the spring of 2003, the Cradle of Liberty Council expelled a Life Scout after he announced he was gay during the national convention held here last year.

The council did adopt a more liberal, inclusive policy, but the national Boy Scouts of America leadership demanded that the local council rescind the policy, and the council adhered to the demand.




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