Friday, December 07, 2007

Boy Scout Ambivalence

By now I'm sure everyone's heard that the Boy Scouts got kicked out of their headquarters in Philadelphia for refusing to change their anti-gay bigotry. I understand the city's position and I don't sympathize with the Boy Scouts at all, but something about this kind of rubs me the wrong way.

Municipal officials said the clash stemmed from a duty to defend civil rights and an obligation to abide by a local law that bars taxpayer support for any group that discriminates. Boy Scout officials said it was about preserving their culture, protecting the right of private organizations to remain exclusive and defending traditions like requiring members to swear an oath of duty to God and prohibiting membership by anyone who is openly homosexual.

This week the Boy Scouts made their last stand and lost.

“At the end of the day, you can not be in a city-owned facility being subsidized by the taxpayers and not have language in your lease that talks about nondiscrimination,” said City Councilman Darrell L. Clarke, who represents the district where the building is located. “Negotiations are over.”

I don't know much about the Boy Scouts; as a kid I was never remotely interested in joining (I was in the Webloes for one year, but my best girlfriend down the street couldn't be in them, so I quit), but I know that for a lot of kids, it's a lifesaver. I would prefer that their lifesaver not be such an intolerant lot, but nevertheless, sometimes I think there are things that trump being progressive. Of course, if the city is going to take a hardline approach to this stuff, it can't go around making exceptions, especially for religious groups, which, in any other circumstance I'd say kick the free-loading bastards out.

Philadelphia has an astronomical crime rate and ridiculous poverty levels, and at least according to a Boy Scout spokesman for the Philadelphia chapter, having to pay the full rent on the building (which the city estimates at $200,000 annually) would require that they cut funding for summer camps for low-income, inner-city kids. Maybe that's not true, or maybe it's irrelevant. It seems too bad, though, that it has to be either/or. The whole situation kind of depresses me.

But what I guess is really too bad is that the Boy Scouts have to be such bigots. That doesn't serve anybody.

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