San Diego’s Balboa Park is described as “America’s largest urban cultural park.” Located just a short distance from downtown San Diego, it covers an enormous 1,200 acres. In addition to the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park is home to 85 culture and performing arts organizations, 15 museums, and numerous recreational facilities and restaurants.
Among the cultural groups that occupy space at Balboa Park are Centro Cultural de la Raza (“dedicated exclusively to Mexican/Chicano/indigenous arts”); the House of Pacific Relations (“comprised of nearly 30 national groups dedicated to promoting an exchange of values and understanding among people of diverse national origin”); the Japanese Friendship Garden; the Mingei International Museum (“dedicated to furthering the understanding of world folk art”); the World Beat Center (“dedicated to African and African-American arts and culture”); and the Museum of Photographic Arts (currently showing two exhibits: one on the Communist painter Frida Kahlo, the other, titled “Speak Truth to Power,” featuring portraits of “prominent individuals” like Bishop Desmond Tutu).
Since 1920, the Boy Scouts have been one of the many groups to use Balboa Park. Beginning in 1940, the Scouts have occupied a 15.5-acre parcel in one corner of the park, comprising just over one percent of the park’s area. They have leased that space, now known as Camp Balboa, from the City of San Diego since 1957. The Desert Pacific Council runs Scouting in the San Diego area; its web page describing Camp Balboa is here. An average of 12,000 boys a year participate in Scouting activities at Camp Balboa. But the camp is not reserved for the exclusive use of the Boy Scouts; “we reserve it for outside groups and anybody’s welcome to use it,” a Desert Pacific spokesman says.
Over the years, the Scouts have made considerable improvements to the Camp Balboa site. They have planted trees, installed water and power lines, and built nine campsites, a swimming pool, a parking lot, restrooms and showers, a residence and office for a camp ranger, and meeting rooms. Their current lease requires the Scouts to invest an additional $1.7 million in improvements and pay the City an annual administrative fee of $2,500.
During the late 1990’s, homosexual activists supported by the ACLU campaigned to terminate the Boy Scouts’ lease at Balboa Park. In August 2000, the ACLU sued in federal court to require the City to terminate its lease with the Scouts. The nominal plaintiffs in the case were two sets of parents, an agnostic couple and a lesbian couple, who claimed their sons wanted to join the Scouts. (Actually, being the son of lesbian parents wouldn’t disqualify the boy from Scouting; nor would being the son of agnostics, as long as the boy himself took the Scout oath.)
In December 2001, the Scouts’ lease was extended by the City of San Diego. Homosexual activists opposed the extension, but it passed by a six to three vote.
On July 31, 2003, Federal Judge Napoleon Jones Jr. ruled on the ACLU’s case. He held that the Boy Scouts are a religious organization, and as such are ineligible to lease land from the City of San Diego. Jones based his decision in part on the U.S. Supreme Court case, decided three years ago, which upheld the Boy Scouts’ right as a private organization, under the Free Association clause of the First Amendment, to establish its own criteria for membership. Judge Jones, a 1994 Clinton appointee, wrote: “Those protected, private viewpoints include an anti-homosexual, anti-agnostic and anti-atheist stance….[I]t is clear that the Boy Scouts of America’s strongly held private, discriminatory beliefs are at odds with values requiring tolerance and inclusion in the public realm.”
The Boy Scouts are appealing Judge Jones’s decision. If the decision stands, the City will be forced to terminate the Scouts’ lease and the Scouts will be expelled from Balboa Park. Balboa Park will continue to be home to every kind of organization under the sun, representing every point of view. Except one.
The photo below shows a Boy Scout taking an archery class at Camp Balboa, now an illegal activity.
Among the points of view that will still be represented at Balboa Park, of course, will be that of the homosexual activists. Two weekends ago, the annual San Diego Gay Pride Festival was held in Balboa Park. It featured music by Klymaxx, famous for the song “Meeting in the Ladies Room.” This year, the City of San Diego sponsored this and this. But there was no controversy. How could there be? There was no sign of any illegal religious influence.
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