How about this for a rent hike: 20 million percent?
That’s what the Boy Scout Council that oversees Philadelphia must pay if it sticks to the national Scout policy of banning homosexuals from membership – or it can just move out of the headquarters it built almost 80 years ago.
The Cradle of Liberty Council (formerly the Philadelphia Council) paid for the construction of its Beaux Arts headquarters in Fairmount Park in 1928, then gave the building to the city in exchange for an annual lease of $1 per year “in perpetuity.”
But nothing lasts forever, particularly if you stay on the minority side of changing social mores. Philadelphia does not allow discrimination against openly gay people and requires that all city-supported organizations, services and buildings be made available to all taxpayers.
The Boy Scouts of America bans gays – a policy that has prompted some municipalities around the country to ban Scout organizations from using their buildings.
After negotiations over the policy fell through, Philadelphia’s City Council voted to end the lease next July and evict the Scout council, unless it agrees to pay fair market rent for the property. In October, the city council announced that appraisers had assessed that rent at $200,000 a year.
Larry Ceisler of the public relations firm Ceisler Jubelirer – hired spokesmen for the Scout council – said that in 2005, Mayor John Street’s staff “handed” his clients some antidiscrimination language. He said the Scout council adopted that language as its anti-discrimination policy.
“They said that we had to abide by the laws of Philadelphia, and we agreed to that. They told us if we agreed to adopt that language, there would be no problem,” Ceisler said.
According to the Scout council’s website, the council’s policy is to “oppose any form of unlawful discrimination.” But the Scout council will not explicitly include sexual orientation in its policy, which is apparently what the city wants to see.
“They had been put on notice over the last year by the mayor, the City Council and the Fairmount Park Commission that they had a choice to make,” City Solicitor Romulo Diaz Jr. told FOX News. “They need to provide evidence that they would not engage in discriminatory practices against gays as either Scoutmasters or Boy Scouts.”
Jeff Jubelirer – the other half of the Scout council’s public relations firm – has accused the city of threatening to reduce services for at-risk youth. “With an epidemic of gun violence taking the lives of Philadelphia’s children every day, it is ironic the administration chose this time to destroy programming that services 40,000 children in the city,” Jubelirer told USA Today.
He told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the annual rent would cost the equivalent of “30 new Cub Scout packs, or 800 needy kids going to our summer camp.”
Ceisler said no allegations of discrimination have been made against the council.
“We have done nothing, and have no intention of moving or paying the rent,” he said.
Contact: Cradle of Liberty Council, (215) 988-9811, www.colbsa.org.