In May 2003, the Executive Board for Cradle of Liberty Council (Philadelphia) adopted a "non-discrimination policy." This policy was supposed to have been inclusive of both sexual orientation and religious belief. However, in June 2003 the council reversed itself and withdrew the policy. Whether this was done because of
pressure from BSA National or when it had to deal with an openly gay Scout, the council has not publicly made any comments. No matter the reason behind the reversal, in the future, for any council to have any credibility when it announces another "non-discrimination" policy, it better be prepared to announce it with an openly gay scout. Otherwise, the media and public will dismiss it as another publicity stunt.
Below are some news articles, letters from BSA National, the Cradle of Liberty Council, editorials, etc., regarding the May/June 2003 incident, and the continuing fallout of the council's actions.
Scouts closer to antibias policy -- Based on one adopted last year in New York, it could bridge a divide over the local council's treatment of gays
Philadelphia Inquirer, December 21, 2003
By Linda K. Harris, Inquirer Staff Writer
After nearly a year of turmoil over the issues of gays in the Boy Scouts, the local Boy Scout council is on the verge of adopting a new antidiscrimination policy that could bridge a sprawling divide between the local council's wishes, the city's legal requirements, and a national organization that demands rejection of gay Scouts.
Cradle of Liberty Council officials would not release a copy of the proposed policy, but they did say it was fashioned after one crafted by the Greater New York Councils in February 2002.
That policy states, in part: "All of our members repeatedly pledge to respect all people and defend the rights of others. Prejudice, intolerance, and unlawful discrimination in any form are
unacceptable within the ranks of the Greater New York Councils, Boy Scouts of America."
"That's the model," said Cradle of Liberty executive director William T. Dwyer 3d. "Until the city is satisfied, we can't let anything out, until things are officially ironed out," he said.
David H. Lipson Jr., board chairman of the local council, said he
thought the new policy would be sustainable, unlike the first antidiscrimination policy that the group withdrew after pressure from the national group.
"It has been a major distraction," Lipson said. "It's hurt the morale."
Christine Ottow, spokeswoman for the Street administration, said that city representatives had seen the new policy, but it was
not yet acceptable. She said the Boy Scouts were going to go back and revise it. No further meetings are scheduled at this point.
When asked last week how the national Boy Scouts organization had responded to the nearly two-year-old policy instated in New York, New York Councils spokesman Craig H. Shelley responded: "We're here."
Cradle of Liberty is the nation's third-largest council, serving 87,000 youths in Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery Counties. Earlier this year, it attempted to instate a new policy of not discriminating against gays and atheists, but the Boy Scouts of America upended the policy. They threatened to revoke the local charter and replace the board. Cradle of Liberty then reversed its
position and expelled Gregory Lattera, an 18-year-old Life Scout from South Philadelphia who, in May, during the national Boy Scout convention in Philadelphia, publicly announced that he was gay.
On June 9, national Chief Scout Executive Roy L. Williams issued a memo that made clear the national policy, which included both Boy Scouts and leaders, and further noted that he knew of no
council not following the national agenda. The memo stated: "An individual who declares himself to be a homosexual would not be permitted to join Scouting."
Local repercussions were immediate. The Pew Charitable Trusts and the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania withdrew a half-million dollars in grants to the Cradle of Liberty Council.
Next, the Street administration asked the city law department to examine the arrangement in which Cradle of Liberty was allowed to use rent-free both the land and the city-owned building at 22d and Winter Streets.
City Solicitor Nelson A. Diaz found that Cradle of Liberty was not complying with the city's antidiscrimination laws and could lose the land and the building that it had used since 1929.
Duane Perry, a civil-rights activist who has been a part of the recent negotiations as well as earlier ones with the United Way, said it was imperative that Lattera be reinstated.
"If they adopted a policy similar to New York City's and reinstated Gregory Lattera, that would indicate they had a policy of nondiscrimination and also a practice of not discriminating based on
sexual orientation," he said.
One serious snag in the negotiations could center on an additional statement that is not in the New York policy.
"There is a draft of a statement that the city has, and that we've seen," Perry said. "But there's a big piece of it, or a second paragraph that is not consistent with the New York policy, and we
think it is problematic. I can't quote it. It deals with conditions under which they might choose to deny membership to Scouts. It has to do with behavior," he said.
Stacey A. Sobel, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, which is representing Lattera, said she still had many questions about the proposed policy.
"They say they are going to follow the law, but it goes against the national council's policy that prohibits participation by gay people in the Scouts," Sobel said. "That concerns me greatly. Greg Lattera had a number of his Scout leaders know that he was gay long before he was kicked out."
Sobel said a behavior clause could inhibit people from making
any reference to their sexuality, essentially turning the policy into one of "don't ask, don't tell."
"If you see what's happened in the military, don't ask, don't tell doesn't work. Incidents of harassments have gone up. It has been a failure. Putting such a policy on even younger people who might not understand the ramifications could be a disaster," she said.
Perry said he hoped the issue would be resolved soon.
But, he added: "At this point I think it's premature to say. I don't know what the Cradle of Liberty's council reaction will be. I think it's way too soon to pop champagne corks."
Needed: a Badge of Courage -- Why the local council isn't telling the Boy Scouts of America to pack up its gay problem and take a hike.
November 4-11 2003
GWEN SHAFFER ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
PHILADELPHIA'S LOCAL BOY SCOUTS assembly is headquartered in a magnificent Beaux Arts building just a short hike--in scouting parlance--from several of the city's most celebrated cultural institutions. The city donated the prime real estate near Fairmount Park to the Boy Scouts of America in 1928, making it possible for the organization to construct its first-ever headquarters building.
Walking into the Bruce S. Marks Scout Resource Center is like entering the hallowed darkness of an Italian basilica. With its intricately tiled floor, vaulted ceiling, dark paneled walls and detailed frescos, the space is awe-inspiring. Engraved in stone near the building's entryway is a proclamation reflecting the BSA's long-standing mission: "The young are fortunate for they will see great things."
Perhaps this stone relief should be amended with the qualifier, " ... if they pledge their allegiance to God and are heterosexual." That's because the Scouts require that all members swear to be "morally straight" and worship a deity. For years the policy has been a source of contention in troops from California to Rhode Island and every state in between.
Now that tensions have reached a boiling point in Philadelphia, many scouting advocates believe the local Cradle of Liberty Council is in a perfect position to force reforms within the BSA.
So why isn't that happening?
MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL'S BOARD of directors have publicly acknowledged their disagreement with the BSA's discriminatory
practices. In May, just prior to the annual national scouting meeting, the Cradle of Liberty Council board drafted a nondiscrimination policy--the product of two years of meetings with community members and the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. It even announced plans to admit gay and atheist boys into its ranks. But the moment BSA leadership ordered the Cradle of Liberty Council to enforce their policies barring gay and atheist boys, the council pulled an about
face and even went so far as to oust an openly gay assistant scout master.
The BSA made certain the public knew all about the Philadelphia council's change of heart.
"The Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America has issued a statement affirming that it will carry out all the policies as set forth by the National Council," a BSA press release reads. " ...
BSA members are free to hold their own opinions, but we ask that they respect the values of the organization and abide by its policies, which they have agreed to by becoming members."
Lori Martin, assistant regional director for Scouting for All, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending the BSA's discriminatory policies, believes miscommunication doomed the Cradle of Liberty Council's May revolt. Board members intended to privately address
policy revisions with BSA officials, she says, but the plan was leaked to the press before they had the chance.
"The council wanted a real nondiscrimination policy, but then they got read the riot act," Martin surmises. She says the BSA is a "down the line" private organization that simply will not stand for individual councils making policies independent of the national office.
BSA headquarters did not return a call for comment on this story.
The council contends it has no choice but to follow national protocol. Fine, says the city, then we have no choice but to boot you from your headquarters.
In mid-September, City Solicitor Nelson Diaz determined that by allowing the Boy Scouts to occupy the property at 22nd and Winter
streets rent-free, the city was violating its Fair Practices Ordinance, which prohibits "the use of public accommodations" by any person or organization that discriminates based on race, sexual orientation, religion or handicap.
If the Cradle of Liberty Council were forced to pay market-value rent for the building, it certainly couldn't afford the overhead. As one
activist puts it, referring to the council's decision to cave to pressure, "All they need to do to keep their good deed is to do a good deed."
WITH 64,000 MEMBERS IN PHILADELPHIA, Delaware and Montgomery counties--about 50,000 of them within the city limits--the Cradle of Liberty Council is the Boy Scouts' third largest regional council. Scouting in Philadelphia isn't just about camping--there are
also after-school programs, academic support and career development activities. Remove its urban presence and the Cradle of Liberty Council would wither.
Given such high stakes, why are local scout leaders hesitant to take a stand against discrimination on the national level?
"The local council could have enough influence to force the BSA
to change its discriminatory policies," Martin says. "Philadelphia could start a groundswell."
If the Cradle of Liberty Council were to stand up to the BSA, "that could be the crisis that settles this whole thing," says Jay Mechling, a professor of American Studies at the University of California-Davis and author of On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth .
FROM A POLITICAL PERSPECTIVE, the last thing city officials want to do is fling the Cradle of Liberty Council out on its backside. Mayor Street has no interest in offending the many black churches that sponsor troops.
In hopes of avoiding a showdown, city officials drafted nondiscrimination language in collaboration with the Cradle of Liberty Council. City officials want the Cradle of Liberty Council to embrace
the same nondiscrimination policy the Greater New York Council adopted last year.
While the new language doesn't specifically ban discrimination against gays and atheists, it stresses that "prejudice, intolerance and unlawful discrimination in any form are unacceptable." Philadelphia board members approved this wording in mid-October.
Now everyone can only hope it satisfies the Boy Scouts
bureaucracy in Texas, as well. "They've seen it, and we're waiting to hear back," says Bill Dwyer, Scout executive of the Cradle of Liberty Council. "The New York policy was okayed by national."
A NUMBER OF CRADLE OF LIBERTY Council board members are high-profile business types who presumably possess enough clout to pull off a coup d'état. Board Chairman David Lipson is publisher of
Philadelphia magazine, and other board members include Robert Davis, president of First Republic Bank; Lorina Marshall-Blake, a vice president at Independence Blue Cross; John L. Braxton, a retired trial court judge; and Robert G. Thompson, CEO of the architecture firm Kling Lindquist.
"We're in the process of developing language and discussing it with national," Lipson says. "We just want to make sure all of our
ducks are in a row before we go public--so we don't have to do a flip-flop again."
Whether that language will be vague enough to satisfy both the gay community and the Boy Scouts of America remains to be seen. "I get calls from parents on all sides," Dwyer says. "That's why it's so hard for us. Each group has a credible argument. We're really stuck in the middle."
Micah Mahjoubian is in a unique position to bridge the gap between these feuding constituencies. Not only is he a gay man who works for Mayor Street, but Mahjoubian is a former Eagle Scout. When he joined a Delaware County Cub Scouts troop at age 11, Mahjoubian was a shy kid. "Then I took on different leadership roles and gained the skills I use all the time now," he says.
At the Street administration's behest, Mahjoubian is meeting with all parties. He feels strongly that whatever new policy language is adopted must be "testable."
"The city has made it clear a new policy is going to be drafted," says Mahjoubian, "but it can't be superficial. It has to push the Boy Scouts toward meaningful change."
The key to the language will be for the Boy Scouts to agree that it won't break the law--to acknowledge that discrimination violates the city's Fair Practices Ordinance.
LORI MARTIN HAS STRONG TIES to scouting. Her brother is an Eagle Scout and her husband serves on the committee for their 14-year-old son's troop. She wishes the council had opted to flex its muscle this past spring.
"I don't think the local council is homophobic," she says. "So what would happen if it adopted a nondiscrimination policy, and the BSA kicked out the council?"
Individual troops and units have had their charters denied or revoked, but no BSA council has ever defied the wishes of national headquarters.
If the Cradle of Liberty Council were to buck Scout policies barring gay and atheist boys and leaders, the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania would restore more than $400,000 in annual funding. Similarly, the Pew Charitable Trusts would reinstate a $100,000 grant. Most significantly, the city would no longer feel compelled to evict the council from its headquarters.
That's not to imply real losses wouldn't be felt should the Cradle of Liberty Council lose its charter. Local troops depend on the BSA for much of their programming, supplies and administrative support. Thousands of boys attend summer camps run by the BSA. Philadelphia-area scouts could no longer wear the traditional uniform or reference the organization's venerable handbook.
"It is a big chunk to bite off," Martin acknowledges. "But it's not impossible ... Someone has to put their foot down."
Duane Perry, a former Eagle Scout, characterizes scouting as "an important part" of his adolescence. Of course, if he'd acknowledged being gay back when he was an active scout, the BSA would have given Perry the boot.
Perry recently served on a task force created to push the Cradle of Liberty Council toward reform. He's frustrated that local council leaders are opting not to lead the charge against bigotry.
"Their strategy is self-preservation," he says. "They don't want to go out on a limb."
IN THE PAST, THE BSA HAS SUMMARILY kicked out rebellious
troops and packs that refused to expel gay or atheist boys. A handful of local councils, representing entire regions, have publicly balked at the BSA's discriminatory policies. However, none have actually acted on their frustration.
Perry says the Cradle of Liberty should be the first to do so.
What distinguishes Philadelphia's council, he says, is its
significant size and location. The council represents 1,000 units in a major metropolitan area, as well as in rural communities. "This council is extremely prominent," Perry says.
Perry also believes the current political climate makes it easier for the Cradle of Liberty Council to dive into choppy waters.
"There have been a number of recent victories for gay rights,"
Perry notes. He cites local ordinances sanctioning gay marriage, the popularity of gay characters on television and the addition of sexual orientation to hate-crime laws. "Plus, kids themselves are really tolerant now. Allowing gay scouts is a nonissue for kids."
For whatever reason, Perry says, the Philadelphia council has demonstrated reluctance to lead the charge. "It is not surprising that
national bore down on them, but it is distressing that the local council immediately turned tail."
A source close to the council actually blames the gay community for the lack of progress. "It's all about power," says the source. "The gay community is hurting scout funding to advance its own self-interest." The source agrees BSA shouldn't discriminate, but insists
the local council never enforced the policies until activists drew attention to the issue--compelling national to take on a "Big Brother" attitude.
The policy revisions now on the drawing board can succeed only if the gay community agrees to keep them "low key," so as not to ruffle the feathers of the BSA leadership. If gay activists insist on holding a press conference to announce their "victory," the source
says, the May fiasco is destined to repeat itself.
Philadelphia's gay community is very strong. It can get people out to a rally, and it has economic power. But in order to resolve differences, the situation demands someone with a middle-of-the-road perspective to serve as a "conduit," a source with ties to the Cradle of Liberty Council says. "Someone needs to act as the voice of reason here."
CHRISTINE JAMES-BROWN, PRESIDENT and CEO of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, declined to comment for this article. But Dwyer says the council plans to meet with the organization soon and request that funding be restored. And a United Way task force member is convinced the Cradle of Liberty Council "wants to do the right thing."
"The board was afraid that if it didn't back down, national would install a reactionary, right-wing board," the task force member speculates. "I doubt that would have happened, but that's what the board was afraid of."
Clearly, everyone involved agrees on at least one thing: Whatever a new local policy states, the language must be vague-
-fuzzy enough that the local council can interpret in one way while national BSA leaders hold a different interpretation.
But Mechling, the professor and author of a book on Boy Scouting, says national's discriminatory policies are driven by more than ideology. "The Boy Scouts have a history of scandals involving pedophilia," he says. "Of course it's offensive to associate
homosexuality with pedophilia. But this fear that a scout master will molest boys is an old worry, going back to the beginning of Boy Scouts."
That may be an attempt to explain a policy on gays, but what about atheism?
Mechling and other observers are convinced the BSA is fixated on religion for financial, rather than moral, reasons. The Church of
the Latter-Day Saints contributes millions of dollars to scouting annually. In fact, every Mormon boy is automatically enrolled in Boy Scouts at age 7, regardless of whether he ever attends a meeting. This accounts for about 12 percent of the Boy Scouts' total membership. "If both the Mormon and Roman Catholic churches withdrew, it would be a very big blow," Mechling says.
The scouting reform group Scouting for All estimates that the
Mormon church is responsible for about 40 percent of BSA's $9 million endowment, "and their contributions are dictating policy right now," Lori Martin says.
But Cradle of Liberty Council Scout Executive Bill Dwyer believes this is a simplistic view of discrimination within scouting. "You can't pin it on a single issue," he says. "It's financial, religious and about child protection."
IN JUNE 2000 THE SUPREME COURT reaffirmed BSA's status as a private organization. In a 5-4 decision in the case Boy Scouts of America v. Dale , the majority concluded that the organization maintains the right to pick and choose its members. However, many activists insist BSA should qualify as a public group because it benefits from significant U.S. military assistance and holds an honorary congressional charter.
An act of Congress permits Boy Scouts to wear uniforms resembling those of the Army, Navy and Marines. Congress has also authorized the various military branches to loan equipment to the Boy Scouts free of charge and to sell the BSA obsolete or surplus material, including bullets.
Every four years, a military base in the rolling hills of Virginia,
Fort A.P. Hill, hosts the Boy Scouts' National Jamboree. This giant 10-day camping festival attracts some 40,000 scouts and leaders from all over the world. According to the BSA website, kids practice archery, orienteering, running, shotgun shooting, boating, canoeing and hunting safety. No need to worry about down time for these ambitious scouts--daily religious services "provide time for reflection." Since the first jamboree in 1937, the military has contributed
personnel, equipment and services.
Additional government support for the BSA comes in the form of access to public schools--including opportunities to recruit boys during class time. Public schools, along with police and fire departments, also sponsor troops and packs.
In July 2000 legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives unsuccessfully introduced a bill that would have repealed BSA's
congressional charter, granted in 1916. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Democrat from California, introduced the measure to protest the Dale ruling.
"We're not saying [scouting is] bad," Woolsey explained at the time. "We're saying intolerance is bad, and I don't see any reason why the federal government should be supporting it."
Woolsey, whose son is a former scout, represents the district
where Steven Cozza lives. As a 12-year-old Boy Scout in Petaluma, Calif., Steven condemned bigotry in the organization and was cast out for verbalizing his beliefs. He and his father, Scott, countered by founding the group Scouting for All. For seven years, they've been pushing BSA to reform its policies.
"Only in Muslim countries do scouting organizations prohibit gays," Scott Cozza says. "European, Asian and Australian scouting
groups do not discriminate."
In June 2001 more than 20 leaders of regional councils--including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Boston--banded together to propose the BSA permit churches, schools and other chartering organizations to decide for themselves whether to accept gay scout members and leaders. National abruptly rejected the appeal. Still, Cozza says he's
at a loss to understand why the Cradle of Liberty Council didn't hook up with these cohorts this past spring.
"The BSA would have backed down if two-thirds of its membership had united against its policies," Cozza asserts.
Dwyer says he doesn't know why Philadelphia didn't form a coalition back in May, but adds that a new one is now in the works.
JAY MECHLING DOUBTS that even unified councils will move the national organization. Hierarchy at the BSA doesn't work the way it does at General Motors, which must answer to stockholders. It works more like the Catholic Church, where the Vatican makes all procedural decisions. "When the BSA finds individual boys or even troops defying its policies," he says, "it excommunicates them."
Cozza charges the BSA is riding the wave of "ultraconservatism" in this country. "President Bush opposes including gays in the hate crimes bill," he says. "He's against gay marriage and he's a religious fundamentalist."
Cozza is particularly angry that the Cradle of Liberty Council backpedaled in May. "The executive board in Philadelphia took a
courageous stand, then they double-talked," he says. "The council lacked character and succumbed to politicking."
As far as Cozza is concerned, one action, and one action alone, can redeem Philadelphia: Allow Greg Lattera back into Boy Scouts.
"There's nothing else to say," Cozza concludes.
MILLING ON THE SIDEWALK outside the Cradle of Liberty Council headquarters, Greg Lattera patiently waits his turn to take the mike at a sparsely attended Oct. 9 protest.
He may not be an official Boy Scout these days, but Lattera certainly dresses the part--from his military-style buzz cut to his lug-soled shoes. Lattera's drab green socks are pulled up to his
kneecaps, which pop out beneath khaki Bermuda shorts. The shorts rest on his burly hips thanks to a brown leather belt adorned with a metal Eagle Scouts buckle, a pocketknife and a cell phone.
"I am a Boy Scout," declares Lattera, who still lives with his family in South Philadelphia. "I may not have the membership card right now, but I will. The Cradle of Liberty Council just needs to work
out a few things. With the right time and energy, I'll be back."
Considering that the council banished Lattera from its ranks in June after he publicly acknowledged being gay, this 18-year-old shows no signs of resentment. Oddly, he expresses more pity for the board members than for himself.
"It wasn't easy for me to take this stand, and it isn't easy for them," he says.
Lattera joined the Boy Scouts at age 10. Seven years later, he was thrilled to be promoted to assistant scout master. Lattera says he's been out of the closet since he was 15 years old, and his sexuality never caused a ripple within the Scout organization until this past June, after he spoke out against BSA policies during a press conference.
"The next day, I was lying in bed, and my dad walked into my
room," Lattera recalls. "He was holding a registered letter from the BSA, and I had no doubt what it would read ... I guess it was okay for me to be a homosexual, but being an avowed homosexual was too much."
Why does Lattera so badly want to belong to an organization that claims he's immoral? Lattera likens the situation to the civil rights struggle of the '60s.
"Why did Martin Luther King Jr. want to be part of a country that didn't want him?" he asks. "Scouting is not about a uniform or patches--it's about a bond between brothers."
Lattera believes change can happen only at the grassroots level. To that end, he now heads up his own advocacy group, the Pennsylvania Coalition for Inclusive Scouting. "Even if the largest
councils united, the BSA would knock them down. It's like David vs. Goliath."
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights is appealing Lattera's expulsion from the Scouts. The vast majority of kids and parents agree that gay youth should not be subjected to discrimination, says Stacey Sobel, executive director for the Center. "It's the older leadership who cares."
BSA administrators recognize they are out of step with popular culture. But these men are actually proud to be the "antidote" to hip-hop music, pierced eyebrows and reality TV, Mechling says. "They want to return to the 1950s--they maintain a Cold War mentality where masculinity and religion are all woven together."
Sadly, getting lost in all this is what the boys themselves think,
adds Scouting for All's Martin. Her son returned home from scouting camp this past summer and said he and his bunkmates had debated the issue. "Their attitude is that the BSA policy is irrelevant," she reports.
As far as Mahjoubian is concerned, the issue is not about sexuality. It's about psychology.
"Homophobic attitudes in the Boy Scouts are psychologically
damaging," he says. "Kids talk about what they did with girls over the weekend, and there's this sense of shame about being gay. [My scouting experience] made me want to keep it hidden longer."
SHORTLY AFTER MARGARET DOWNEY moved to West Chester more than a decade ago, she researched a troop for her son Matthew to join. Matthew was "deeply involved" in scouting for seven years-
-in both Illinois and New Jersey--and his mom eagerly filled out the application. Downey, an atheist, crossed out the word "God" and scribbled in "good."
Within days, her check was returned. Quoting from the Scout handbook, the enclosed letter noted that a scout "is reverent toward God" and "faithful in his religious duties." The handbook also
declares that "no boy can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God."
Downey finds this comment particularly galling. Now 25, Matthew has a bachelor's degree in physics. After college, he joined the Air Force and now conducts classified research, his proud mom reports.
Rather than letting her anger stew, Downey filed a complaint
with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in 1992. After eight years of legal wrangling, the commission finally ruled in Downey's favor. However, the Supreme Court's June 2000 ruling in Dale automatically invalidated Downey's victory. As president of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia--a nonprofit dedicated to separation of church and state--she continues the crusade.
Despite its discriminatory policies, the Boy Scouts manages to "create" all kinds of boys. And that, perhaps, is the greatest irony of all, Mechling says.
"The Boy Scouts doesn't stamp out one kind of boy. Lots of Eagle Scouts are criticizing the organization and want it to change," he points out. "So even dissenters are acting on principles they
learned in scouting ... It is the Boy Scouts who molded them into independent thinkers."
Boy Scouts may keep Center City building
By: George Tomeszko / Correspondent
The local Boy Scout chapter may get to keep its Center City office building and could retain its leadership standards under a potential agreement being worked out between the city and the Cradle of Liberty Council.
"The agreement should please everyone," said Pat Coviello, executive vice president of the Council. "This will in no way diminish
the leadership standards the Boy Scouts of America have."
The issue arose when the City Solicitor's office recently handed down an opinion that the Council would lose the free use of the Center City building because the national Boy Scout policy of choosing only heterosexual males and non-atheists as leaders conflicts with the city's "Fair Practices" policy.
The Council, which has 87,000 members in Philadelphia, Delaware, and Montgomery counties, finds itself in a dilemma. If it changes its policies on choosing leaders to suit the city, it risks alienating the national Boy Scout organization, and if the Council upholds the national Boy Scout policy, it loses its arrangement with the city.
A meeting was held between city officials and officers of the
Cradle of Liberty Council last month to resolve the issue. Coviello said that he did not think the city wants to evict the Council, especially not during an election year.
"I think they (city officials) see that as a bad political decision for the city," Coviello said.
During the September meeting, the mayor's chief of staff
suggested that the Cradle of Liberty Council adopt the same "anti-discrimination" policy put in place by the greater New York Boy Scout councils. That policy reads in part, "prejudice, intolerance, and unlawful discrimination in any form are unacceptable within the ranks of the Greater New York Councils."
Coviello said the agreement being worked on between the city and the Cradle of Liberty Council would leave the Council's policy on
homosexuals and atheists intact.
"It's not changing the Boy Scouts of America," he said. "It's allowing both sides of the fence to have a say."
But he also said that the Council would search for alternative sites for its Center City offices should the city prove intransigent. The Council has another site in Wayne, called the Firestone Scout
Resource Center. But Coviello said the tone of the September meeting was positive. Further meetings are planned.
"We're very optimistic," he said. "Everybody is just watching and waiting."
The Cradle of Liberty council presently administers its Learning for Life program, which teaches character-building skills to inner-city children, from the Center City property, located at 22nd and Winter
Streets. More than 34,000 youths are currently enrolled in that program, the vast majority of whom live in the city. A few hundred of this number live in Chester.
The Council's Center City headquarters was built in 1929, after City Council had passed a resolution the year before allowing the Boy Scouts free use of the land in perpetuity. However, the city reserved the right to take back the land, provided it gave the Scouts one year's notice.
Over the summer the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania voted to withhold one half of a grant it had previously made to the Cradle of Liberty Council. That grant, for $400,000, had been made to support the Cradle of Liberty council's Learning for Life program.
A second grant frozen by the United Way, for just under $18,000, supported a similar program operated by the Boy Scout's Chester County Council.
The money withheld would have helped fund both of these programs through the second half of this year. The United Way took that action because of policy differences between the United Way and the two Scout councils regarding homosexuals.
In May the Cradle of Liberty Council decided to break with the Boy Scouts of America's national council and allow homosexuals to
serve as troop leaders and members. But the Council reversed itself in June after prodding by the national organization and after receiving hundreds of e-mails, letters, and calls from concerned parents.
Editorial: Scouts' Dishonor -- City must rock the Cradle
Philadelphia Inquirer, September 18, 2003
Kicking the Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts out of city property it has used rent-free since 1929 is an unpleasant choice for the city.
But the city may be forced to do it.
That seemed clear after City Solicitor Nelson A. Diaz told Mayor Street that allowing the council free use of the land at 22d and Winter Streets violates the city's fair practices ordinance.
At issue is the national Boy Scouts policy of discriminating against gay scouts; the Cradle of Liberty has tried laudably to wriggle free of that dubious policy. But the national organization
threatened to revoke its charter.
Since then, the local council has kicked out a South Philadelphia Life Scout who announced he's gay.
The city must give the scouts a year's notice to vacate. In the best case, that time would allow the local council to try again to carve out an independent, nondiscriminatory policy. A 2000 U.S.
Supreme Court decision ruled the Boy Scouts, as a private organization, can make rules about whom to admit that would be discriminatory if enforced by a public entity.
So, yes, the national scouting body is within its legal rights. But that doesn't make the policy right. And it does not mean the city should subsidize bias at taxpayers' expense.
City says scouts' use of land is in jeopardy: The group's exclusion of gays and atheists is at issue. It has its local headquarters on city property.
Philadelphia Inquirer, September 17, 2003
By Linda K. Harris, Inquirer Staff Writer
The local Boy Scout council, which has enjoyed the free use of city property for its offices since 1929, may lose that benefit because of its policy of banning gays from scouting, city officials confirmed yesterday.
"We hope that this will not be the outcome," said Pat Coviello, executive vice president of the Cradle of Liberty Council.
The mayor's chief of staff, Joyce Wilkerson, said she contacted local council executives last week to advise them of an opinion handed down by City Solicitor Nelson A. Diaz.
Diaz had informed the Mayor's Office that the city's fair practices ordinance was in direct conflict with the policy of allowing the Boy Scouts to use the property at 22d and Winter Streets rent-free for offices. The reason for the conflict is the Boy Scouts' policy of excluding against gays and atheists, dictated by the national organization, said Barbara Grant, the mayor's spokeswoman.
A meeting between city officials and Boy Scout executives is scheduled for next week to discuss the matter. Cradle of Liberty is the nation's third-largest council and serves 87,000 youths in Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery Counties.
"We value the services they provide," Wilkerson said. "They do good work for the kids in a lot of neighborhoods in the city. We
wanted to talk through the issues with them."
David H. Lipson Jr., board chairman of the local council, said, "My hope is they want to work with us. Our council has said we want to end discrimination of all types. It's been a difficult road. But we're committed to change. To punish us makes absolutely no sense," he said.
But gay civil rights leaders said the Cradle of Liberty Council still discriminated and so the city had no choice but to ask it to leave.
"I think the city is now obliged to terminate the lease," said Malcolm Lazin, executive director of Equality Forum, an international gay civil rights group based in Philadelphia. "This is an organization
that discriminates and should not be given what is, in essence, a sweetheart deal."
Stacey L. Sobel, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, said that she was sympathetic to the local Boy Scouts' good intentions, but that the council had fallen short.
"The bottom line is they're still discriminating," Sobel said.
"This is another message to the local and the national Boy Scouts that they cannot continue to do business as usual."
In 1928, City Council passed a resolution allowing the Boy Scouts free use of land at 22d and Winter Streets near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The Boy Scouts was allowed to build a headquarters there at its own expense, with the proviso that the building would immediately become the property of the city and must
be turned over to the city with a year's notice, should the city want it.
The next year, the Boy Scouts built a grand Beaux Arts stone building for its headquarters, designed by noted architect Charles Z. Klauder. In 1971 the building was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.
"It's one of the real gems, small gems of the Parkway, and
tends to be forgotten a lot," said Bruce Laverty, curator of architecture for Atheneum of Philadelphia, a special collections library with a specialty in architecture.
In 1993, the building's exterior and interior were renovated.
The building is now known as the Bruce S. Marks Scout Resource Center. Cradle of Liberty has another center, the Roger S.
Firestone Scout Resource Center in Wayne.
The city's decades-long deal with the Boy Scouts became an issue in May when the Cradle of Liberty Council tried to liberalize an intractable national policy regarding the acceptance of gays. The local council, in defiance of the Boy Scouts of America's policy of not allowing gays to join, voted that it would not discriminate based on sexual orientation and religion, among many other things.
The council had been under pressure from the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which had been making annual grants to the Boy Scouts of more than $400,000.
However, when the national organization, based in Irving, Texas, heard of the local council's move, it threatened to revoke the local charter and replace its board.
In early June, the local council folded under the pressure and quickly expelled a South Philadelphia Life Scout, Gregory Lattera, who openly acknowledged that he was gay.
After that, the Pew Charitable Trusts withdrew a $100,000 grant in June. In late July, the United Way board voted to retract the second half of its $400,000 grant for this year.
In June 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts could bar gays from serving as troop leaders. That decision was hailed as a major victory by the national council.
United Way pulls funds from scouts
Pa. groups lose thousands over gay discrimination
By Linda K. Harris
Aug. 01, 2003
After 80 years of providing financial support to local Boy Scout groups, the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania voted
yesterday to cancel all funding to the local scouts because of their policy of discriminating against gays.
"It was not an easy meeting," said Christine James-Brown, United Way president. "There was a strong undercurrent of emotion in the room."
The United Way voted to withhold the second-half payment of a $400,862 grant to the Cradle of Liberty Council, the nation's third-largest, serving 87,000 youths in Philadelphia, Delaware and
Montgomery Counties. The United Way's contribution represents a substantial portion of the Cradle of Liberty's $6.2 million yearly budget.
The United Way also voted to withhold the second half of a $17,901 grant to the Boy Scouts' Chester County Council for the same reason.
James-Brown said the rest of the grants would be held until the end of the year, to see whether the Boy Scouts could bring their policies
into compliance with the United Way's nondiscrimination policies.
William T. Dwyer III, executive director of the Cradle of Liberty Council, could not be reached for comment yesterday. David H. Lipson Jr., the local council's board chairman, also could not be reached.
James-Brown said she was able to reach Dwyer by cellular phone after the meeting to advise him of the decision. She said Dwyer was very disappointed.
Stacey L. Sobel, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in Philadelphia, hailed the decision.
"I think this was difficult for United Way, but I think they made the right decision," Sobel said. "If they provided funding to the Boy Scouts, it would undermine their antidiscrimination policy."
In June 2000, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the case of a New Jersey assistant scoutmaster who was expelled for being gay,
that the Boy Scouts had the right to bar homosexuals as troop leaders. The national Boy Scouts viewed that as a victory.
The Cradle of Liberty Council voted unanimously in May to adopt an antidiscrimination policy regarding sexual orientation. The move was directly related to concerns that had been the subject of negotiations for two years with United Way.
But when the national Boy Scouts organization learned of the local
council's decision, it immediately went on the attack. The national council threatened to revoke the Cradle of Liberty Council's charter and to replace the board.
The local council succumbed to the pressure and ousted a South Philadelphia Life Scout, Gregory Lattera, who announced he was gay.
On June 9, national scout executive Roy L. Williams issued a nationally circulated memo saying the Cradle of Liberty Council was in compliance with the national policy.
"As a condition of their charter, no local council is permitted to depart from [Boy Scout of America] membership policies. We are unaware of any council that is not in compliance," the memo stated.
That turnabout on policy, however, already has cost the Cradle of Liberty $100,000. In June, the Pew Charitable Trusts killed a grant for that amount because of the policy change.
In addition to the monetary losses, the City of Philadelphia is
looking into whether it wants to continue to let the Cradle of Liberty Council use the headquarters building, which the city owns and which sits on city-owned land.
In 1928, City Council passed an ordinance allowing the Boy Scouts to build a headquarters at 22d and Winter Streets on city land. The ordinance states that once the building was erected, it would become the property of the city. The ordinance also required that the
property be surrendered if the city gave one year's notice.
The Mayor's Office yesterday did not return phone calls on the matter.
Since the issue of discrimination became public locally in late spring, the city's law office has been researching options about the Boy Scouts headquarters.
To read the UW's press release, click here.
United Way pulls funding for Philadelphia-area Boy Scouts program
NEPA News (Pennsylvania)
July 31, 2003
The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, citing its nondiscrimination policy, said Thursday it will no longer fund an urban school program of the local Boy Scouts chapter in the city and three suburban counties.
The Philadelphia-area United Way group had stopped funding
the chapter itself after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts of America could exclude homosexuals.
On Thursday, the United Way said it would also pull funding for the Learning for Life program, which it had continued to support because the program was not subject to the ban on homosexuals. The local group's president, Christine James-Brown, said the board of
directors decided there wasn't enough separation between the two groups.
The group gave about $400,000 for the Cradle of Liberty Council to operate Learning for Life in Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Delaware counties and also funded it in Chester County.
Cradle of Liberty scout executive William T. Dwyer III said he was "incredibly disappointed."
"In the face of the fact that our board came out with a statement that it was nondiscriminatory, and still to have this happen to us, is absolutely unbelievable," Dwyer said.
In May the Philadelphia Boy Scouts defied the national organization by adding "sexual orientation" to its nondiscrimination policy. But, facing pressure from the national organization, the
chapter rescinded that position in June.
Dwyer said the local organization has no choice but to follow national policies.
"The (local Boy Scouts) board, which I answer to, is unanimous in its thinking that it should be inclusive and tolerant to people of different sexual orientation, and that's their statement," Dwyer said.
In June, the United Way started looking at whether it should continue funding Learning For Life and held meetings with the Boy Scouts to try to find a solution.
"Ultimately it decided that there wasn't a real separation," Brown said. "There was also disappointment on the decision of the local board to come out and state support for the national policy."
Stacey Sobel, executive director of Philadelphia-based Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, applauded the United Way decision.
"The United Way has an anti-discrimination policy. If they gave money to the Boy Scouts knowing that the Boy Scouts discriminated, they would have undermined their credibility with every other organization they fund," she said.
Brown said the yearly funding of a little more than $400,000 would remain earmarked for the Boy Scouts for up to 2 1/2 years in case any policy resolutions can be reached.
Dwyer said he was "hopeful as hell" that the funding could be returned. He said Learning For Life would have to eliminate most of its urban city programs.
"I'm cutting everything and it's awful to watch it all go away," Dwyer said. "I signed on to be a youth agency executive, not a solver of social issues. I'm just trying to bring programs to kids."
Boy Scouts' Anti-Gay Policy Challenged
By BILL BERGSTROM
.c The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Boy Scouts of America organization didn't put its anti-gay policy on the agenda of its national meeting this week, but the long-divisive issue remained just outside the door.
The group, which won a court battle to exclude gays from its ranks, is seeing opposition from protesters and even from scouting leaders in the city hosting the three-day meeting, which ends Friday.
The Cradle of Liberty Council - the nation's third-largest with 87,000 members in Philadelphia and two neighboring counties - unanimously voted this month to add ``sexual orientation'' to its nondiscrimination policy.
National leaders ``think that time will just make it go away,'' said Scott Cozza, of Petaluma, Calif., president of Scouting for All, one of the groups that held a news conference Thursday to criticize Boy Scout policies barring homosexuals and atheists. ``We're going to be there, knocking on their door, telling them it is wrong.''
The national organization didn't plan to take up the gay-policy issue
at the annual meeting of councils from 50 states and Puerto Rico, spokesman Gregg Shields said. The event is devoted to workshops, a business meeting and appearances by people including Ronald Young Jr., a former prisoner of war in Iraq, and billionaire Ross Perot, who will be honored for his service to youth.
Shields also said no decision had been made on whether the Cradle of Liberty Council would face disciplinary action for rejecting the anti
-gay policy. Last year the national group rejected a resolution that would have left such decisions to local councils.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts, as a private organization, can exclude homosexuals. The policy, however, led some groups to reconsider their ties with the organization.
About 10 human rights activists protested the policy outside the meeting Thursday, including Boy Scout Gregory Lattera, 18, of Philadelphia.
``It's painful, that something you love, people you care about, are ready to kick you out,'' Lattera said.
Inside the hotel where the convention was held, fellow Boy Scout Greg Heleniak, 18, of Blue Bell, Pa., said that although he respects protesters' right to speak out, ``I think they have to respect our rights as an organization.''
``We've been around for 90 years. Scouting has produced many
great leaders. I don't see any reason for changing it,'' Heleniak said.
The Cradle of Liberty Council isn't the first to buck the national group's stance. The Boston Minuteman Council approved a bylaw in 2001 that effectively allows gays in the group if they don't openly reveal their sexual orientation, and several major councils have asked the national organization to revise the policy.
Philadelphia-area Boy Scouts vote to protect gays: 3rd-largest BSA council defies national group, adds sexual orientation to non-discrimination policy
By JOE CREA
PHILADELPHIA — The nation's third largest Boy Scouts council voted last week to prohibit discrimination against gays in scouting, even as national representatives from the Boy Scouts of America met in Philadelphia for their annual convention.
The Cradle of Liberty Council, which boasts 87,000 members in Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery Counties, agreed on May 29
to reject the BSA's national policy, which bars gays from participating in Scout activity, and added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy. The meeting came on the same day that the BSA began its three-day convention that was marked by protests from anti-discrimination groups.
"We want to move the focus to sexual behavior and reinforce our message to do everything possible to protect the kids," said David H.
Lipson Jr., board chairman of the Cradle of Liberty Council. "We also want to enforce that we don't think any form of sexuality has a place in the Boy Scouts.
Scott Cozza, of Petaluma, Calif., president of Scouting for All and an attendee of the protests, expressed support for the Cradle of Liberty Council's decision.
"It sounds like the Cradle means what they say, since the decision comes from their executive committee," Cozza said. "Other councils
in the past have made statements to the media saying they would not discriminate, but they eventually followed the national policy. It was clearly a ploy to get funding but this one here [Philadelphia] has a lot of validation to it."
Gregg Shields, a spokesperson for the national organization, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the Boy Scouts reviewed their policy of excluding gays last year and decided to maintain it.
"We recognize that not everybody agrees with our policy, and we respect their opinions, but we ask their tolerance of the values that we hold."
He also said that no decision was made on whether or not the Cradle of Liberty Council would face repercussions for their rejection of the national policy.
The BSA did not return calls from the Blade seeking comment.
Cozza said that if the BSA follows tradition, they are likely to act as
a "national bully" toward the Philadelphia council and will threaten to pull their charter.
"The Mormans and religious fundamentalists provide millions of dollars in funds to the BSA," Cozza said. "In their amicus brief to the Supreme Court they threatened to pull all funding to the BSA."
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of James Dale — a New Jersey assistant scoutmaster dismissed for being gay — that
the Boy Scouts of America are allowed to bar gays as troop leaders.
But Lipson said that his group is not worried that their charter would be stripped for "it is not a viable option for anybody."
Boy Scout Greg Lattera of Philadelphia attended the Cradle of Liberty Council press conference where he publicly came out. Lattera, who came out to his family and friends three years ago, recently told his scoutmaster that he is gay.
Lattera, 18, said the scoutmaster told him he didn't have a problem with Lattera's sexual orientation. But the scoutmaster said if Lattera was kicked out by the BSA, that he shouldn't participate in any social activities, since he feared that the Philadelphia council would be stripped of its charter by national leaders.
"That's how the national council works," Lattera said. "[The BSA] will threaten to take away their charter so they can no longer be a troop.
You know, they can take away my membership card, uniform and badges but they will never take away what I've earned inside — that true scouting spirit."
June 6th, 2003
To: Gregory M. Lattera Jr.
Philadelphia PA XXXXX
Dear Mr. Lattera,
We have received information that has compelled us to revoke your registration. We therefore request that you sever any relationship you may have with the Boy Scouts of America. A refund of your registration fee is enclosed.
You should understand that BSA membership regisstration is a privilege and is now automatically granted to everyone who applies. We reserve the right to refuse registration whenever I there is concern that an individual may not meet the HIGH STANDARDS of membership that the BSA seeks.
If you wish to have this decision reviewed by a BSA regional review committee, please write to the regional director within sixtyt days of
the date of this letter, explaining your version of the facts supporting your claim that your registration should be granted. The procedures for a review of this decision are attached.
William T. Dwyer, III
The following information is provided should you desire a review by the Northeast Reagion, BSA, of the decision to deny your registration:
1:Within sixty days, you must request in writing a review of this decision. Your Request should be sent to Northeast Region, BSA, P.O. Box 268, Jamesburg, Nj 08831-0268. In your request, you must include your version of what occured in support of your claim that registration should not have been denied.
2:Upon receipt of your written request, a committee will be appointed to review the situation.
3:The committee will review the facts as presented.
4:You will receive a letter setting forth the findings of the committee.
5:If you are dissatisfied with the results of the regional review, you may request further review by the National Council. The decision of the National Council will be final.
To: Scout Executives
From: Roy L. Williams, Chief Scout Executive
Subject: Cradle of Liberty Council
It has been reported that the Cradle of Liberty Council in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, adopted a membership policy that was contrary to our national leadership standards. As a condition of their
charter, no local council is permitted to depart from BSA membership policies. We are unaware of any council that is not in compliance.
In order to clear up any misunderstanding, attached is the Cradle of Liberty Council's position statement regarding the leadership standards of the Boy Scouts of America.
POSITION STATEMENT ON THE CRADLE
OF LIBERTY COUNCIL'S STANCE REGARDING THE
LEADERSHIP STANDARDS OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA
MONDAY, JUNE 9TH, 2003, 9AM
1. Recently the Cradle of Liberty Council Board of Directors held discussions concerning a non-discrimination disclosure that the council has signed in order to qualify for United Way funds. These United Way funds are used specifically for the council's Learning for Life program at the request of the local United Way executive board.
2. This non-discrimination disclosure was directed to the use of
United Way funds in the Learning for Life program and was not, and was not intended to be, an indication of any desire by the board to depart from the National Council policies nor should it be construed as any indication that Cradle of Liberty Council will fail to uphold any policies of the Boy Scouts of America.
3. The Learning for Life program working through schools, businesses and other community organizations delivers values based
programs to thousands of children. This program is not a membership program and selection of the adults who deliver the program is up to the institution that sponsors the program.
4. The Cradle of Liberty Council is chartered by the National Council, Boy Scouts of America to conduct its various programs in Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery Counties. As such the local council affirms that it will carry out all policies as set forth by the
5. Cradle of Liberty Council, Boy Scouts of America is strongly committed to the moral and spiritual development of Scouting youth in accordance with the values in the Scout Oath and Law. In the Oath and Law, the Boy Scout promises to do his duty to God and to be morally straight, as well as to be clean in his thoughts, words and deeds.
6. The traditional membership programs of Cub Scouting, Boy
Scouting, Varsity Scouting and Venturing have specific requirements and standards of leadership pertaining to all volunteers of which there are approximately 10,000 registered in this council.
7. Applications for leadership and membership do not inquire into sexual orientation. However, an individual who declares himself to be a homosexual would not be permitted to join Scouting. All members in Scouting must affirm the values of the Scout Oath and
Law, and all leaders must be able to model those values for youth.
8. Consistent with the obligations of the Scout Oath and Law, Scouting teaches youth to show tolerance and respect for all human beings. The Scout Law requires youth to be helpful,friendly, courteous, and kind to all, and Scouts are taught to be respectful of those whose views may be different from their own. Scouting teaches both tolerance and clear moral values. Tolerance for all does not
mean that all behavior must be accepted as appropriate for those in Scouting.
Cradle of Liberty Council offices can be reached at 215-988-9811 or 610-688-6900.
William T. Dwyer, III
Cradle of Liberty Council, BSA
Area council ousts openly gay scout
By Linda K. Harris
Just weeks after a local Boy Scout council unanimously voted to adopt a nondiscrimination policy regarding homosexuals, it has
ousted an 18-year-old South Philadelphia scout who publicly acknowledged that he was gay.
Gregory Lattera received a certified letter on Saturday from the Cradle of Liberty Council stating: "We have received information that has compelled us to revoke your registration. We therefore request that you sever any relationship you may have with the Boy Scouts of America."
Lattera was part of a group of activists who held a news conference
during the Boy Scouts' national gathering in Philadelphia last month to protest the organization's policy of discriminating against homosexuals and atheists. Lattera also talked about being gay.
Lattera, a Life Scout, a rank second only to an Eagle Scout, said yesterday that he cried when he read the letter.
"It breaks my heart," Lattera said. "I'm not just another gay kid. I'm a real person. I want people to know who I am."
He added: "A scout is brave, and a scout will fight for what he thinks is right and truthful."
The national council of the Boy Scouts of America does not allow homosexuals to be involved in scouting and has a policy of expelling openly gay scouts or adult leaders.
Cradle of Liberty Council leaders, however, said that expelling Lattera was a local decision. The council's chief executive officer, William T. Dwyer III, yesterday defended Lattera's expulsion.
"He decided to hold a press conference to come out as a member of the gay community and also a potential employee and past employee of the Boy Scouts," said Dwyer, who signed the letter to Lattera. "Our staff knew he was gay and never made a big deal about it. He decided to make a big deal about it. The don't ask, don't tell policy is pretty clear."
The local antidiscrimination policy approved in May, however, has no
mention of don't ask, don't tell.
Lattera said he was planning to appeal the ouster within the Boy Scout organization.
He will be represented by Stacey L. Sobel, a lawyer and executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights.
"The letter itself is not very specific," Sobel said yesterday. "We are going to really talk about Greg's record, which is exemplary as a Boy Scout. Greg Lattera was just demonstrating the values he was
taught through the Boy Scouts, which is leadership and honesty."
In June 2000, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the case of a New Jersey assistant scoutmaster who was expelled for being gay, that the Boy Scouts had the right to bar homosexuals as troop leaders.
That decision became troublesome for some local scout councils. Last month, the Cradle of Liberty - the nation's third-largest council, serving 87,000 youths in Philadelphia, Delaware and Montgomery
Counties - adopted its nondiscrimination policy because the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which funded some of the Boy Scouts programs, does not tolerate exclusion.
In May, Dwyer acknowledged that policy in a letter to the United Way.
"United Way has brought to our attention the fact that the Agency Membership agreement contains a promise to 'operate by policy and practice, on a nondiscriminatory basis,' including 'sexual orientation'..
. It is our duty to live up to that promise fully in our policy and practice, including all programs, employment and adult leadership," the letter stated.
David H. Lipson Jr., chairman of the executive board, who also signed the letter, said he has been in negotiations with the national council over the issue.
"At this time, we want to work with the national council to slowly, methodically bring about change. But whatever the national policies
are, we want to stay within that policy," he said. "It's a slow process and very hard."
Duane Perry, a gay civil rights leader who has been involved in the United Way discussions for the last two years, said Lipson indicated that pressure from the national council had been intense.
"I spoke with David Lipson the day after his meeting with the national council, and he told me they threatened to revoke the
charter and replace the board if the policy wasn't changed," Perry said.
Christine James-Brown, executive director of United Way, yesterday met with gay civil rights activists about the Boy Scout issue.
"It's a tough issue," James-Brown said. "We do have a policy around nondiscrimination. There's a need for us to continue a dialogue."
James-Brown said she would talk with members of the United Way
board later this week about the controversy.
Ousted gay Boy Scout loses summer camp job
By MARYCLAIRE DALE
The Associated Press
6/12/2003, 6:55 p.m. ET
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Last year, Greg Lattera won a top employee award at the Boy Scout camp where he worked, a mark of pride for the city kid from South Philadelphia.
But after three summers at Camp Hart in Montgomery County, the teen counselor is out of a job - and banned from the Boy Scouts of America - after acknowledging at a recent news conference that he is gay.
"I figured, if they're going to be trustworthy, and they're going to be good scouts, then there should be no reason I should have to hide who I am, or lie to kids I work with," Lattera, 18, said Thursday, on the eve of his high school graduation.
Just weeks earlier, the Cradle of Liberty Council, which oversees about 87,000 Boy Scouts in Philadelphia, voted to buck its parent organization and ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Lattera's dismissal letter, which he received Saturday, gives no explanation for the council rejecting his application to become an adult scout, except to say that the group can reject a person when there is concern that he doesn't meet the Scouts' "high standards of membership."
"Quite a few councils have quietly adopted nondiscriminatory policies like this and shown them to the United Way and other funders. This
is just the first case that we can clearly document that what they are showing to the funders is not what they will practice as soon as someone tests the policy out," said Mark Noel, a spokesman for the New England chapter of the Council of Inclusive Scouting, an advocacy group that wants to end sexual, religious and other forms of discrimination in scouting.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in June 2000, ruled that the Boy Scouts of
America could exclude gays from serving as trooper leaders.
The United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which gave the Cradle of Liberty Council $418,000 in 2002, plans to discuss Lattera's dismissal at a scheduled funding meeting Friday, said Judith Williams, the vice president for marketing. The group does not allow its grant recipients to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
"We are in the process of reviewing what's been going on," Williams
said. "We will make a decision based on the information that we gather from the Boy Scouts."
Neither William T. Dwyer III, the Cradle of Liberty Council's executive director, nor board chairman David H. Lipson Jr., returned telephone messages Thursday.
However, Dwyer told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Lattera should not have spoken out publicly.
"Our staff knew he was gay and never made a big deal about it. He
decided to make a big deal about it. The don't-ask, don't-tell policy is pretty clear," he told the newspaper. Lattera said he was never told to keep quiet.
Lattera attained the level of Life Scout, one notch below Eagle Scout, in his seven years of scouting. He said he has been out to family and close friends for a few years, and that his Scout leader was aware of his orientation.
"He said 'Fine, we love you no less,'" Lattera said.
Lattera will appeal his dismissal to the local council before considering a lawsuit or other action, said his lawyer, Stacey L. Sobel, the executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in Philadelphia.
Despite the decision, Lattera said he does not want parents to remove their children from scouting programs.
"Don't let these kids get hurt by the politics that are going on. There are some really good lessons that kids can learn from scouting. A lot
of kids need this," he said.
For now, Lattera - one of two children of a disabled father and stay-at-home mother - needs something else.
"If you know anybody who's hiring, let them know," he said.
Editorial | Scout of the closet
Local Boy Scout council wrong to buckle under to gay discrimination.
June 13, 2003
Just over two weeks ago, Philadelphia's Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America got well-deserved praise - and undeserved
attacks - when its vote to end discrimination against gays in scouting made the news.
It was a brave move, considering that national Scout policy is to bar self-described gays as Scout members and leaders - a controversial policy backed up by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2000.
But now, embarrassing to say, that praise for the local Boy Scouts council appears way off the mark.
Far from courageous, the council has shown itself to be cowardly and
untrustworthy - certainly two qualities good Scouts should never display.
Despite the council's grand antidiscriminatory declarations, the real deal seems to be that if you let people know you're gay, the council will snuff out your membership faster than a Scout snuffs out a campfire.
That happened to Life Scout Gregory Lattera, 18, who the local council dismissed last Friday, not long after he held a Philadelphia
news conference in which he decried scouting's antigay policies and talked about being gay himself.
Lattera, from South Philadelphia, said he cried when he received the letter dismissing him from the organization he honors and loves.
The hunch is that the local council had its wrist smacked hard by national scouting officials. And when it came to weighing commitment to a principle against a confrontation with the national
organization, pragmatism seems to have won out. Imagine Scout leaders trying to explain that lesson to young followers: See, kid, principles are fine, until they actually cost you something.
Speaking of cost, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania two years ago restricted money it allocates to the local Boy Scout council because the organization's antigay stance violates United Way's own antidiscrimination polices. Good move.
The United Way still gives $550,000 a year to the Scout council's Learning for Life program - an after-school program that benefits some 37,000 at-risk kids in Philadelphia.
The program is a good one, and the local Boy Scout council has formally promised United Way that there's no discrimination in it toward either gay kids or staffers.
But, except for donor-directed funds, United Way should not fund any
program conducted by organizations that discriminate in any of their activities. If an openly gay youngster participates in Learning for Life and then wants to join the Boy Scouts - the door slams in his face.
The first virtue mentioned in the Boy Scout Oath is "honor." In vowing one thing and doing another, Philadelphia's Cradle of Liberty council has forgotten that.
Official BSA Press Release on Cradle of Liberty Council
Cradle of Liberty Council
The Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America has issued a statement affirming that it will carry out all the policies as set forth by the National Council. The council made this statement to clarify any misconceptions that may have arisen during the BSA National Annual Meeting held May 28-30.
Earlier in May, the Cradle of Liberty Council submitted a non-discrimination disclosure statement to the United Way of
Southeastern Pennsylvania. This non-discrimination disclosure addressed the use of United Way funds in the Learning for Life program. These are the only funds the council receives from the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
The Learning for Life program, working through schools, businesses, and other community organizations, delivers values-based programs to thousands of children. Learning for Life is not a membership
program, and selection of the adults who deliver the program is up to the sponsoring institution.
Cradle of Liberty Council President David Lipson has expressed disagreement with the BSA's membership policies, as is his right. BSA members are free to hold their own opinions, but we ask that they respect the values of the organization and abide by its policies, which they have agreed to by becoming members.