Update: USPS Sued by Boy Scouts

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The Boy Scouts of America, Irving, TX, is suing the U.S. Postal Service, claiming that it was overcharged for mailing the Boy Scouts' official catalog.

The organization, chartered by Congress in 1916, was charged an extra $218,000 in postage on grounds the catalog did not qualify for a nonprofit rate that applies to most Boy Scout mailings.

According to Greg Shields, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts, the organization has been mailing its annual catalog, which includes items such as coffee mugs and pens with the Boy Scouts emblem, for years; but in 1998, the post office denied the organization's not-for-profit status and said some of the products were unrelated to the BSA's educational program.

"[The USPS] stated that the catalog was not related to our program," said Shields. "[But ] everything in the catalog is related to our program, everything has the Boy Scouts emblem on it or is related to the Boy Scouts educational programs in some way."

Shields said that catalogs put out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Wildlife Fund offer products that may not have their logos or their programs involved in every product, "but they are certainly related, and they receive non-for-profit status. We are similar, and we deserve non-for-profit status as well."

Last year, the Boy Scouts made the recommended revisions, but were denied not-for-profit status again. After a second set of revisions were rejected, the BSA mailed the catalog with First-Class postage and appealed the decision. When the USPS turned down the appeal, the Boy Scouts filed suit in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

The USPS would offer no comment.

The Alliance for Nonprofit Mailers, of which the Boy Scouts is not a member, said that the nonprofit postal eligibility requirements -- like the "substantially related" rules the postal service has accused the Boy Scouts of violating -- "are usually confusing and sometimes unfair," said Amy Gotwals, ANM assistant director. "We are continually working with the postal service to craft clearer rules and to educate postal employees and nonprofit customers."

The Boy Scouts, which have been granted tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service as a charitable youth organization, includes more than 3.1 million boys today, including the Cub Scouts.

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