Scouts to get a plaque at city-owned building
by Timothy Cwiek
Jun 20, 2013 | 954 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A plaque in honor of the Boy Scouts of America will be installed on or near the city-owned building one group occupied, according to a legal agreement reached last month between the city and the BSA Cradle of Liberty Council.

Cradle is leaving the building at the end of June, thus settling a protracted legal fight to remain there rent-free.

In return, the city will give Cradle $825,000 for improvements reportedly made to the building, which is located at 231-251 N. 22nd St.

Additional details of the settlement were released last week.

The plaque will state: “On this site in 1929, the Philadelphia Council of the Boy Scouts of America constructed the first Boy Scouts headquarters in the United States. The Beaux Arts-style building was built on land provided by the City of Philadelphia and was occupied by the Philadelphia Council and later the Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts until 2013. Since 1910, thousands of boys in the Delaware Valley have participated in the youth-development activities of Scouting.”

Palma M. Rasmussen, an outspoken critic of the Scouts, blasted the plaque.

“The City of Brotherly Love shouldn’t be a party to any effort honoring the Scouts,” she said. “It’s unconscionable to award a plaque to an organization that’s taking half-assed steps to include gay youths but not their parents.”

Rasmussen expressed strong displeasure with the last sentence of the plaque, which recognizes the Scouts’ “youth-development activities.”

“The Scouts don’t develop character,” she said. “If the Scouts had some character, they’d do the right thing and stop discriminating. Money is their god. It was only the threat of funding cuts that motivated them to allow gay youths.”

She said the Scouts no longer can rely on steady financial support due to their antiquated policies.

“There’s no honor among thieves, and the Boys Scouts are thieves because they steal the souls of individuals by depriving them of their civil rights,” Rasmussen said.

Mark McDonald, a spokesperson for the Nutter administration, had no comment about the plaque, nor whether city tax dollars will pay for it.

Rasmussen also noted Cradle could have applied to the state Historical and Museum Commission for a historical marker.

“In my opinion, Cradle isn’t going through the correct route because they know state officials wouldn’t put up with their biased language [on the plaque],” she said.

Kera Armstrong, a Cradle spokesperson, had no comment on whether Cradle would apply to the state for a historical marker.

About 2,000 such markers are located throughout Pennsylvania, with wording that accurately reflects the background of historically significant sites.

The Cradle settlement also contains a provision forbidding city officials from referring to Cradle in disparaging terms.

Margaret A. Downey, president of the Freethought Society, blasted that provision.

“Cradle officials disparaged themselves by condoning discrimination, and the city should never turn a blind eye to their behavior,” she said.

Downey questioned whether the provision would impede the city’s ability to vigorously enforce its antibias rules, should Cradle return to the city.

She noted Cradle allegedly uses a job-application form that forbids the hiring of gays and atheists, which would be in conflict with the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance.

“People worked too hard for that law to have it be flouted by Cradle,” Downey added. “If Nutter officials hide behind the non-disparagement provision, rather than vigorously enforcing the law, they’ll have another fight on their hands.”

Rasmussen echoed her concerns.

“The Nutter administration represents the taxpayers,” Rasmussen said. “It should never compromise its First Amendment right to criticize Cradle. Cradle holds fast to its antiquated exclusionary practices. The city should hold fast to its First Amendment right to criticize those practices.”

McDonald had no comment about the non-disparagement provision.

He also had no comment on the city’s future plans for the building.

Downey said the building should be used as a community center for nonprofits that seek to lessen the damaging effects of discrimination, including discrimination against nontheists.

The settlement also allows Cradle to remove four artifacts from the building. They include an altar, a carving, an indoor statue and an outdoor statue.

Additionally. the settlement states that Cradle will receive the $825,000 in city tax dollars in November, after a retail store operated by the Scouts vacates the premises.

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