Watch: Is Sign Stand-Off Over Adjacent Camps Homophobic?

Friday July 16, 2021

The sign for 12 Penny Saloon Gay Campground
The sign for 12 Penny Saloon Gay Campground   (Source:Facebook)

In Scranton, Pennsylvania, a battle has ensued between a LGBTQ campsite and a Jewish summer camp over a pair of adjacent signs. The dispute began when the 12 Penny Saloon Gay Campground posted a sign with the camp's logo and the words, "Gay Campground. Friday 6PM Till Sunday 6PM." It sits adjacent to a sign for a camp for the Jewish Community Center.

"Both the 12 Penny Saloon Gay Campground and JCC Camp Daleville use the same 100-plus-acre location and facilities, with the Jewish camp operating until 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, and the gay campground operating from 6 p.m. on Fridays until 6 p.m. on Sundays," reports the Pennsylvania newspaper The Morning Call

But after posting the sign, Mike Hatala, owner of the 12 Penny Saloon Gay Campground,"contends the Jewish Community Center of Scranton asked him to cover a sign at the entrance of his campground out of homophobia." He posted on Facebook a 35-second video of a confrontation he had with a JCC employee who insulted him.

It is an accusation that Dan Cardonick, the executive director of the Jewish Community Center, flatly denied.

In his most recent Facebook post, he writes: "Share this as much as possible before Facebook takes it down again! A employee of the JCC try to intimidate me and call me an asshole for hanging up Gay campground sign . Then the JCC of Scranton asked me to cover the sign up."

"The center promptly released a statement rebutting Hatala's, writing, 'We are an inclusive and tolerant organization whose members and staff represent all segments of the regional community, including the LGBTQ community. ... Those allegations and statements are completely groundless and not supported by any evidence or facts,"" reports The Morning Call.

Mike Hatala, owner of the 12 Penny Saloon Gay Campground  (Source: Facebook)

Cardonick claims that "they asked Hatala if they could cover his sign on weekdays to avoid confusion, as the camp entrance is hard to find. They would then uncover the gay campground sign on Fridays for its own camp-goers, Cardonick said, explaining the Jewish camp takes down its own signs at night. "That was purely the ask," Cardonick said. "He turned it into these ... allegations of discriminatory behavior."

But Hatala doubled-down. Saying the request to cover the sign was "absolutely" homophobia. "There's no mistaking the two signs," he said. "It's already a set schedule."

"When asked about previous homophobic remarks involving the center, Hatala declined to go into specifics due to litigation but said, 'There were several remarks made,'" writes The Morning Call.

Cardonick emphasized that JCC Camp Daleville is inclusive, and the community center has LGBTQ community members, as well as campers with families who are part of the LGBTQ community.

"Where's the evidence?" Cardonick said. "We deny those allegations."

As for the employee who insulted Hatala, Cardonick says he "is a state constable hired to do security at the camp due to a rise in anti-Semitism over the past year. The guard responded to investigate after someone reported a person doing something at the entrance of the camp. Cardonick acknowledged the man should not have cursed at Hatala," reports The Morning Call.

"The security guard should be a little more professional than that," he said. "He didn't do anything derogatory or discriminatory or homophobic that we saw in the video."

But Hatala believes the employee was there to "intimidate and harass him as he was putting up the sign.

"I won't put up with it," he said.