COALITION PROTESTS BOY SCOUT DISCRIMINATION POLICIES
AT PHILADELPHIA PRESS CONFERENCE, MEET
Local Council Won't Cooperate With National BSA --
Votes Against Bigotry!
Gay rights, Atheist-Freethinker and other civil liberties groups came
together in Philadelphia on Thursday to speak out against
discriminatory policies of the Boy Scouts of America.
The BSA's national conference is meeting this weekend in the City of
Brotherly Love. No sooner had officials from the Scouting hierarchy
opened their meeting at the Marriott Hotel on Market Street, though,
than they were greeted by picketers outside calling for reform in the
organization's membership policies. The BSA currently refuses to
allow homosexuals as members or Scouting leaders, and insists that
those wishing to join swear a religious oath.
That has lead to a battery of lawsuits in the courts, and efforts to
sever the long-standing link between government agencies and the Boy
Rebellion is also spreading the ranks. Just in time for the BSA
conference, the Cradle of Liberty Council -- the third largest in the
nation -- voted to add "sexual orientation" to its policy of
nondiscrimination. The Council serves 87,000 youths in the
"We disagree with the national stance, and we're not comfortable with
the stated national policy," CLC's Board Chairman, David H. Lipson
Jr. told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. "That's why we're
working on a solution that works for everyone."
He added that a number of philanthropic groups including the Pew
Charitable Trusts have reduced their annual contributions to the Boy
Scouts, and that the national policy regarding homosexuals and
nonbelievers has hurt fund raising efforts by local BSA troops.
The move by the Cradle of Liberty Council was prompted by meetings
with community leaders where the discrimination issue was discussed.
One participant was David L. Cohen, an executive with the Comcast
communications group who was also chairman of the Philadelphia area
United Way from 1998 to 2001.
"We were not prepared to allow our kids to be casualties on the
battlefield of adults who should know better," Cohen told the
Press Conference Hits Discrimination
At the press conference organized by Scouting For All, representatives
from different national and community-based groups called for an end
to the BSA discrimination against gays and Atheists. Among the
participants were Scott Cozza of Scouting For All; Margaret Downey of
the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia; Gregory Lattera,
President of the Gay/Straight Alliance Club; Ellen Johnson, President
of American Atheists; Chris Hayes, Inclusive Scouting Representative;
Fran Kirschner, President of the Philadelphia Chapter of PFLAG; Rev.
Benjamin Maucere of the First Unitarian Church; Rita Addessa of the
Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Daniel J. Holmes, Eagle Scout and
Assistant Scoutmaster of a local BSA troop; and Peter Hance, Secular
Humanists and Atheists of Lehigh Valley.
Later, nearly two-dozen picketers were in front of the Marriott Hotel
to begin the weekend's round of protest demonstrations. Media was out
in force, and comments by Greg Lattera were carried by local
television stations and fed to national networks. Lattera, wearing
his Life Scout uniform, talked about how seven years in the BSA
program had improved his life, but said that he now faced expulsion
from the organization "simply because I'm gay."
Mr. Cozza, also in uniform, told reporters that while the courts may
consider the Boy Scouts of America to be a private organization immune
from civil rights protections, "discrimination against gays and
Atheists is still wrong."
Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists represented the
organization, and echoed Mr. Cozza's statement for cameras. Also
participating with the AA contingent were Bart Meltzer, National Field
Operations Director, Pete Hance, Regional Director for Pennsylvania;
and Janice Rael, Regional Director for South Jersey.
For further information:
Scouting for all - www.scoutingforall.org
Atheist scout says he'll fight decision to expel him from BSA, 10/30/02
School violated rights of Atheist student in permitting BSA recruitment,
As protest mount, legislation would protect federal ties to BSA, 10/8/00
Bill to cut Scouts' congressional charter introduced..., 7/22/00
California court: Boy Scouts can bar gays, Atheists, others, 3/24/98
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