Boy Scouts Face Eviction as Discriminatory Organization in Philadelphia

The Boy Scouts of Philadelphia face evictions as a discriminatory organization in Philadelphia under a local 1982 “fair practices” law. They have been informed that either they must drop their discrimination against homosexuals or move out of the grand, Beaux-Arts building it has rented from the city for $1 a year since 1928.

The Boy Scouts have long adopted a clearly discriminatory policy against homosexuals. They have argued that the policy is based on their moral teachings and are therefore protected under the Constitution. They are right in my view and I agreed with the Supreme Court decision protecting their association on that basis. In Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000), Chief Justice Rehnquist overturned the New Jersey Supreme Court’s application of the New Jersey public accommodations law. That law was used to force the Boy Scouts of America to readmit assistant Scoutmaster James Dale. The Court held that the lower court’s decision unconstitutionally violated the rights of BSA, specifically the freedom of association. For a prior column on Dale, click here

However, that does not protect them from bearing the costs of the discrimination. I find the policy of the Boy Scouts to be offensive and wrong -even though I now have two cub scouts at home. In the case of the Beaux-Arts building, the city may be on good grounds to force the payment of rent. This is not akin to forcing the hiring of a staff member. The only concern is whether the city is applying the rule equally to other organizations that discriminate. In the past, the Boy Scouts have been singled out for such treatment in an arbitrary way. The federal government is particularly arbitrary in the use of tax-exempt status to punish unpopular views. For a prior academic piece, click here

For the full story on the Boy Scouts in Philadelphia, click here