Sunday, October 12, 2008

HUD permits funding of Boy Scouts

The Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernment Relations from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Sheila M. Greenwood, in a recent letter to Representative Barney Frank wrote that no action would be taken at this time to stop a $940,500 HUD grant to the Greater Alaska Council (GAC) of Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for a high-adventure camp near Blair Lake, north of Talkeetna. The federal grant would help pay for design and construction of some initial facilities, including a generator building, warehouse and administrative office. How does HUD justify the grant?

Sheila Greenwood said that the GAC promised that "the facility would be made available to both scouting and other organizations on a first come - first served basis, and with no discriminatory fees imposed on these users of the facility." Those other organizations don't own and operate the facility nor are those other organizations receiving the HUD grant. As Sheila Greenwood acknowledged in her letter, "the organization [BSA] does not accept atheists and agnostics as members or adult leaders." What does the law actually say about this?

24 C.F.R. § 6.4 Discrimination prohibited.Title 24 - Housing and Urban Development Part 6 - Nondiscrimination in programs and activities receiving assistance under title 1 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 Subpart A General Provisions states: "Section 109 requires that no person in the United States shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity funded in whole or in part with Federal financial assistance, on the grounds of race, color, national origin, religion, or sex." How do the provisions of this regulation compare with the facts in this case?

It is the GAC, not the camping facility, that is receiving the HUD funds. The GAC will own and operate this government subsidized camping facility. This appears to be a tangible benefit targeted primarily for the GAC that favors the GAC theist only Scouting program over competing programs. Furthermore, the administrative office building is probably going to be staffed exclusively by the GAC. The other organizations will probably not be permitted to utilize the available federally funded but GAC owned office space on a first come - first served basis.

Apparently, it is the GAC that will determine the rules and procedures for reserving and using its government subsidized camp and that will decide who reserved its government subsidized camp first. The BSA organization, as one of the competing consumers of its government subsidized camping facilities, has a self-interest in the outcome of its own decisions. Because the GAC runs a theist only camping related program this results in a glaring conflict of interest with the anti-discrimination provisions of the federal appropriations regulations. The GAC's ill-defined and self-conflicted first come - first served promise should not be considered sufficient to qualify as compliance with the law.

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