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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Diversity Training a Condition if Scouts Want to Buy Philly HQ Building

By Kilian Melloy -

The Boy Scouts headquarters in Philadelphia 
Under a proposal to allow the Boy Scouts of America to buy the Depression-era building in Philadelphia that has long housed the local council’s headquarters, the Scouts would have to agree to host diversity trainings and GLBT community groups in the space, the Philadelphia Daily News reported on Dec. 17.

The city lost a federal trial against the Scouts earlier in the year. The sale of the building for $500,000--half its appraised value--has been proposed as a means of settling with the Boy Scouts. At issue in the trial was the national organization’s policy of excluding gays and atheists, which the Supreme Court upheld in a 2000 decision. But the city, which had been leasing the building to the Scouts for the token fee of $1 per year, has anti-discrimination policies in place that cover sexual minorities. When the city pressed for the Cradle of Liberty Council to defy the national group’s anti-gay policy or face a choice between eviction or paying the market rate for its yearly lease--a cost of $200,000--the case went to trial. A jury found in favor of the Scouts.

The plan to sell the building includes caveats, noted the Philadelphia Daily News article. One is that the Cradle of Liberty Council must agree that they will not sell the building for at least ten years. The other is that the group must allow community groups to use space within the building--including GLBT groups--for educational forums, including diversity training.

The sale was hailed as a "win-win" solution to an already expensive legal wrangle. Attorney Jason Gosselin, who represented the Cradle of Liberty Council, told the Associated Press that the sale was "a better solution than having to go through an appeals process."

A joint statement from both sides of the issue said, "What we have on the table is a win-win situation that resolves the lawsuit, saves the city $1 million and gives the Scouts the opportunity to buy the headquarters they have been in for 80 years."

But the plan has its skeptics and its detractors. "Anything that rewards discrimination is just plain wrong. So to give the Boy Scouts the building for $500,000 is giving them a prize piece of Philadelphia property for a pittance," said the head of Equality Forum, Malcolm Lazin, who added his signature to a letter from a group of prominent citizens to the city mayor urging that the sale not proceed.

"The recent proposal to sell city-owned property to the Boy Scouts, at a big discount, to facilitate discrimination is contrary to the values and beliefs we hold most dear as a community," the letter read in part, a Dec. 17 Philadelphia Inquirer article reported. "As history has shown, when we permit discrimination against some of us, we tear apart the fabric that makes us one," the letter added.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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