Boy Scouts to buy HQ building for 500G

Statue at Boy Scout headquarters
Statue at Boy Scout headquarters
Posted: November 18, 2010

The regional council of the Boy Scouts of America has agreed to pay $500,000 for its headquarters building in Logan Square, tentatively settling a dispute with the city over the national Scout organization's ban on gay members.

In return for selling the building, the city won't have to pay the Scouts $960,000 in legal fees that are the result of a federal civil-rights case that the city lost last summer.

City Solicitor Shelley Smith and the Scouts' attorney, Sandra Girifalco, issued a joint statement last night describing the agreement as "a win-win situation that resolves the lawsuit, saves the City $1 million and gives the Scouts the opportunity to buy the headquarters they have been in for 80 years. . . . Both the City and the Scouts look forward to putting this behind them so that we can focus on the real priority of serving the youth and citizens of our City."

Councilman Darrell Clarke, whose district includes the city-owned property at 22nd and Winter streets, a block from the Franklin Institute, was expected to introduce an ordinance at today's Council session to consummate the deal. Final passage could come next month.

The Scouts' two-story, 13,000-square-foot building was built at the Scouts' expense and was recently appraised at more than $1 million, according to Thomas Harrington, chief executive officer of the Scouts' regional organization.

But the city retained ownership and threatened to evict the regional council in 2007, in opposition to the national organization's ban on homosexual scouts and troop leaders.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 2000 that the Scouts had the legal right to impose the prohibition. But the city contended that it put the Scouts in conflict with the city charter's ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Faced with eviction or $200,000 a year in rental payments, the Cradle of Liberty Council sued in federal court.

An eight-person jury ruled in June that the city had violated the Scouts' First Amendment rights, making the city potentially liable for $960,000 in legal bills from the Scouts' law firm, Drinker Biddle & Reath.

The Cradle of Liberty Council serves 35,000 youths in Philadelphia and 15,000 more in Montgomery and Delaware counties.

Besides the uniformed-Scout programs, the organization sponsors Learning for Life, aimed at elementary school-age children, and Exploring, a career-awareness program for high-school students.

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