A Boy Scouts of America group in Philadelphia removed a well-known scout statue from outside its headquarters Friday in preparation for its move to a new home as part of an agreement that resolved a discrimination dispute with the city.
The city owns the property and has allowed the nonprofit Scouts group, the Cradle of Liberty Council, to use the headquarters rent-free for the past 85 years. Because the Boy Scouts barred gays from membership, the city unsuccessfully sought to have the chapter evicted for violation of Philadelphia's anti-discrimination policies.
In May, officials announced the group would vacate its home in return for $825,000 to pay for improvements it made to the building.
Workers were busy outside the headquarters Friday morning, building a frame around the statue to prepare it for shipping. The statue will be cleaned and preserved, according to Tom Harrington, CEO of the nonprofit. Harrington said in a statement that the group hopes to install the statue at its new headquarters, once one is selected. The organization will operate entirely out of its Valley Forge office until then.
The dispute between the City of Philadelphia and the Cradle of Liberty Council began long before the Boy Scouts of America took steps to move away from its ban on gay members. When the city attempted to evict the group in a 2010 trial, the jury found that the effort violated the Scout chapter's First Amendment rights. Before that, the Scout council had attempted to appease the city in 2003 by creating its own, independent nondiscrimination policy, but the Boy Scouts of America would not allow the move.
The Cradle of Liberty Council, which has 17,000 members in the Philadelphia area, ultimately decided that putting an end to the battle would be in its members' best interests, and agreed to settle with the city.
The council's staff will leave the Philadelphia headquarters by June 30. A scouts' supply store in the building will close by Oct. 31.
Meanwhile, now that the organization has opened membership to gay youths, a church in northeastern Pennsylvania has opted to kick out its local troop and dissolve its relationship with the Scouts, citing moral differences, the Times-Tribune newspaper in Scranton reported.
More than 17,000 kids are served by the Cradle of Liberty Council in Philadelphia and Montgomery and Delaware Counties.