A Philadelphia Boy Scouts chapter is suing the city after officials ordered them to open their membership to gays, or pay 200,000 percent more in rent.
Philadelphia gave the Cradle of Liberty Council Boy Scouts Chapter until Saturday to adhere to a local "non-discrimination" rule. If they fail to comply, the building they lease would increase from $1 a year to $200,000 a year.
Scouts across the country do not accept leaders who are openly gay, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the group has the right to do so.
The Scouts responded on this past Friday with a federal lawsuit.
They accused the city of censorship, saying it provides free or discounted leases to Baptist and Catholic church groups that also limit membership.
Still, Philadelphia officials say they cannot provide subsidized rent to a group that discriminates.
"They're free to exercise their First Amendment rights," City Solicitor Shelley Smith said Tuesday. "What they're not free to do is get a benefit from the city while violating our policy."
Cradle of Liberty Council developed the nondiscrimination policy in 2003. But Boy Scouts said the changes went against their national rules barring homosexuals from membership.
In an effort to compromise, the Philadelphia chapter adopted a new policy.
"If (it's) working and there haven't been any problems, why can't (it) continue?" Cradle of Liberty Council spokesman Jeff Jubelirer wondered.
Philadelphia owns Beaux Arts headquarters, the current building in question, and the land beneath it. he Scouts claim they have put about $1.5 million in renovating the building and spend about $60,000 a year to maintain it.
They added that an increase in rent would force program cuts, and affect the nearly 70,000 children the chapter serves.
Source: The Associated Press