Jury: Phila. may not evict scouts

June 23, 2010 at 11:56 PM

PHILADELPHIA, June 23 (UPI) -- A federal jury in Philadelphia Wednesday decided the city's decision to evict a Boy Scout group from city-owned facilities was unconstitutional.

The city told the Cradle of Liberty Council in 2006 it would have to stop using city-owned offices -- or pay $200,000 annual rent -- because of a Boy Scouts of America policy banning homosexual scouts and scout leaders, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The scouts argued the city policy was coercive and violated the organization's free speech and equal protection rights.

Following the verdict, an attorney for the scouts, William McSwain, said the decision means the scouts "can't be kicked out of the building or evicted and we don't have to pay any rent."

However, Philadelphia City Solicitor Shelley Smith said jurors' responses to questions on the verdict sheet suggest the verdict may be flawed, the Inquirer reported.

"We will be exploring our options," Smith said.

The verdict could mean the city has to pay the scout group's legal fees, estimated to be about $860,000, the report said.

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