Judge Presiding Over Boy Scout Case A Former Scout
While the LGBTQ community celebrated their pride on Sunday, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) reminded them yesterday in federal court that the scouts are still able to legally discriminate against them.
By now, you should know the story: the city of Philadelphia wanted the BSA’s Philly chapter to comply with the city’s “anti-bias regulations.”
But a Supreme Court decision in 2000 permits the Boy Scouts to exclude openly gay members because the Boy Scouts are considered a “membership organization,” similarly to the women-only group, the Colonial Dames, which also has a Philly chapter that uses a city-subsidized building.
Yesterday began a week-long trial-by-jury that will decide whether the Cradle Liberty Council, the BSA’s Philly chapter, will be evicted from the building that housed them for decades. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is famously quoted saying that he will not subsidize discrimination.
But representatives for the local Council contend the city is breaching the Scout’s liberty, specifically their first and fourteenth amendment rights.
In an exclusive interview with PhillyNow, Bill Mcswain, who is representing the Council, says the city shouldn’t target the Scouts’ Philadelphia chapter, citing that it follows standards set by the Council’s national parent.
“The government cannot come in and try to strong-arm them, and try to twist their arm and force them to try to change their membership policies,” he says.
He also argues the city singles out the Boy Scouts while it disregards other city-funded groups that discriminate, such as the women-only organization, the Colonial Dames.
Legally, the issue centers around the ultimatum that the city threw at the Scout’s: either face eviction from their headquarters that sits oncity-owned land or to pay $200,000 annually to lease the building.
But technically, the conflict of interest within the case raises some concern.
For starters, the judge presiding over the case is none other than U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter, a former Boy Scout, himself, says Margaret Downey, president of the atheist advocacy group, the Freethought Society.
“The Boy Scout discrimination is much bigger than court records indicate, and we have to stop this private organization from taking federal taxpayers and imposing their bigotry on children and the rest of society,” she says.
While she and members of her group rallied outside the courthouse in hopes of evoking a new interest in the Scout’s exclusion of homosexuals and atheists, those cases have already been decided.
The issue at hand now centers around the city excluding the Scouts since they refuse to follow the city’s beliefs– I mean, “policies.”
Yesterday, perhaps in an effort to make the trial more impartial from Scout Buckwalter, the court chose eight jurors. Jury trials require jurors to make the decision, and those citizens chosen to be in the jury are typically your average-day joe. Duh. But its central significance lies in just that: they often represent the mindset of the majority and overlook the minority’s perspective.
That, coupled with a judge who is a former boy scout, will make an interesting case.
Opening statements begin today.