CBNNews.com -- The City of Brotherly Love is squaring off with a long-time ally -- the Boy Scouts of America. At issue: the Scout's 80-year-old headquarters building in downtown Philadelphia. But what's really at stake is the right of the Scouts to ban homosexuals from leadership.
A Noble History
Since 1910, the Boy Scouts have sought to nurture young boys by teaching them things like how to pitch a tent and how to be brave, kind and cheerful. And over 100 million boys have benefited. Today, close to 5 million are active in Scouts nationwide.
Philadelphia's Cradle of Liberty Council is the third largest chapter in the country. Many supporters believe its work is critical to keeping young people in Philadelphia off the streets and out of trouble.
"It's really, really important that groups like the Boy Scouts step in to provide some of that mentoring influence," Horace Cooper of the American Civil Rights Union said. "That father influence -- to step in to make up where the rest of the family structure has failed."
But that influence may soon change.
Gay Ban Challenged
The City of Philadelphia says it will evict the Boy Scouts from their headquarters on June 1 if they don't change their policy banning homosexuals. The Scouts built the grand Italian Renaissance building 80 years ago and entered into an agreement with the city to lease it back for a dollar a year in perpetuity.
The city says it told the Boy Scouts last June that they either need to stop "discriminating" and abide by the city's fair practice ordinance or get out of the building.
Several conservative groups including the ACRU, Conservative Defense Alliance, and the Conservative Leadership PAC have launched a campaign to support the Boy Scouts.
The Cradle of Liberty Council told CBN that it's considering its options and a First Amendment action is one of them. But it remains hopeful that the matter can be resolved without litigation.
The Scouts cite a 2000 Supreme Court case which supports its right as a private organization to set membership rules.
Philadelphia joins several other cities including Berkeley and San Diego, California that have recently challenged the Scout's use of public facilities. And that has many wondering what type of scouting the second century for the Boy Scouts will bring.
*Original broadcast April 8, 2008.