PHILADELPHIA – The city has decided that the Boy Scouts chapter here must pay fair-market rent of $200,000 a year for its city-owned headquarters because it refuses to permit gay Scouts.
The organization's Cradle of Liberty Council, which currently pays $1 a year in rent, must pay the increased amount to remain in its downtown building past May 31, Fairmount Park Commission president Robert N.C. Nix said Wednesday.
City officials say they cannot legally rent taxpayer-owned property for a nominal sum to a private organization that discriminates. The city owns the land on which the council's 1928 Beaux Arts building sits.
Scouting officials will ask the city solicitor for details on the appraisals that yielded the $200,000 figure, said Jeff Jubelirer, spokesman for the Cradle of Liberty Council.
The higher rent money "would have to come from programs. That's 30 new Cub Scout packs, or 800 needy kids going to our summer camp," Jubelirer said. "It's disappointing, and it's certainly a threat."
The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that Scouts, as a private group, have a First Amendment right to bar gays from membership.
The council adopted a nondiscrimination policy in 2003 but was ordered to revoke it by the National Council, which said local chapters cannot deviate from national rules barring participation by anyone who is openly gay.
The Cradle of Liberty Council serves about 64,000 scouts in Philadelphia and its suburbs.