Boy Scouts Sue City

The local Boy Scouts of America have filed a federal lawsuit against the city for saying that the organization either has to defy its national policy barring gays as members or start paying rent on their city-owned headquarters.

Our courts reporter Michael Hinkelman sums up the suit like this:

The lawsuit -- filed Friday -- says that because the city was opposed to the local Boy Scouts' "constitutionally protected expression," the city decided to "punish" it by demanding that the local Scouts "repudiate" the national membership policy. When the locals refused to do that, the lawsuit says the city "took punitive action" and demanded it vacate its local headquarters or pay $200,000 annual rent. The local Boy Scouts currently pay $1 annual rent for space at N. 22nd and Winter Street.

The city has given the local scouts until May 31 to revise its policy or pay $200,000 rent. (The local chapter adopted a non-discrimination membership policy in 2003 but was ordered to revoke it by the national council.)

The lawsuit also said that by "singling out" the local boy scouts for "disfavored treatment," the city's actions constitute "viewpoint discrimination" which former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan said was "censorship in its purest form." 

The lawsuit also says that many other organizations limit membership or maintain certain viewpoints but enjoy similar privileges (that is, use property owned or managed by the city) without punishment or threat of punishment, including the Zion Baptist Church ($25 a year to lease city property for the Clara Baldwin Home for Seniors) and the Women for Greater Philadelphia and Colonial Dames of America.          

Mayor Nutter told KYW Radio that the city will not support the Boy Scouts' policy on gay members.

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