Washington, DC, June 24, 2010
The American Humanist Association (AHA) voiced disappointment today in a US District Court verdict allowing a council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to occupy a building owned by the city of Philadelphia rent-free, despite the city’s attempt to end the lease because of the BSA’s discriminatory policies. The verdict was handed down after the scouting council sued the city for attempting to end the lease due to BSA’s discriminatory practices.
“The AHA is suggesting that everyone step back for a moment to consider how aggressive the BSA is willing to get in imposing its discriminatory policies on the public,” said David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association. “This shows that the BSA not only wants the right to discriminate, but that it still expects special treatment despite its unfair prejudices. As the scouts sue the public to obtain special privileges that other groups don’t enjoy, we see in many ways that the BSA is no longer an example of model citizenship.”
The BSA has historically remained unapologetic and deliberate in its exclusion of gay youths and troop leaders, and has also banned the participation of atheists and agnostics. Many groups, including the AHA, have urged the BSA to adopt inclusive policies, such as those of the Girl Scouts of America, that would allow participation by gays and nonbelievers.
The BSA argued that the city’s eviction attempt, which was based on a disagreement over the BSA discriminatory policies, was a violation of the BSA’s own constitutional rights. The BSA further protested the city’s offer to allow the group access to the building on the condition that rent be paid.
“The BSA should be ashamed to demand free rent while at the same time continuing policies that discriminate against nonbelievers and gays,” said Niose. “If they want to discriminate, they should have enough decency to pay their way like everyone else. As a defiantly discriminatory organization, the BSA has lost its exalted status.”
Though the city of Philadelphia cannot force the local BSA chapter to renounce the organization’s policy banning homosexuals, reports state that the possibility of negotiation still remains as the city decides what step should be taken next.
“We believe that the City of Philadelphia’s non-discrimination policy fully comports with the American principle of equality and expect that the jury’s decision will be reversed on appeal,” said Bob Ritter, staff attorney and legal coordinator of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “It is totally indefensible for the Boy Scouts to discriminate against atheists and gays and receive substantial governmental benefits for doing so.”
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.