The Boy Scouts of America’s famous motto is “Be Prepared.” But Scout leadership certainly wasn’t prepared for the 95,000 separate claims of sexual abuse that were just filed against the organization by boys ranging from 8 years old to men in their nineties. Yesterday marked the deadline for such lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), set by a Delaware bankruptcy court in May, making this the largest sex abuse case against a single organization in United States history. This dwarfs the 11,000 claims of childhood sexual abuse brought against the Catholic Church in the U.S.
Paul Mones, one of the nation’s leading attorneys working on behalf of underage sex assault victims, was stunned by the numbers, explaining, “Even for me, who probably has been doing this since the beginning, I couldn’t see it coming. Not these numbers.”
The BSA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year under the threat of mounting sex abuse lawsuits by current and former scouts. Tim Kosnoff, an attorney who has tried thousands of such cases against various national organizations, explained to USAToday in May: “They’re going into bankruptcy not because they don’t have the money. They’re going into bankruptcy to hide … a Mount Everest in dirty secrets.” The Scouts paid out more than $150 million in settlements and legal costs from 2017 to 2019 requiring the annual membership fee each member pays to BSA change from $33 to $60.
The Boy Scouts of American have been facing increased troubles over the last decade due to its own policy decisions around issues of sexuality, allowing openly same-sex attracted men to become troop leaders as well permitting girls to join. This year the Mormon Church – one of Boy Scouts’ largest and longest national partners – pulled hundreds of thousands of its boys out of Scouts, starting its own program. That withdrawal caused an 18% drop in BSA membership overnight. Other boys, especially those from evangelical families, have joined Trail Life USA which has grown to over 820 Troops in 50 states involving more than 30,000 boys, all since its 2014 founding.
The Boy Scouts found themselves on the front lines of white-hot cultural battles when they became the target of atheist and homosexual activists in the 1990s. It was then that James Dale, an openly homosexual man, sued the Boy Scouts for rejecting him as a leader. Fighting this case was terribly expensive, going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, where the Scouts prevailed.
Around the same time, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that national Scout Jamborees being hosted on federal military bases was effectively an establishment of religion because the Scouts encourage boys to take a generic “duty to God.” Such challenges by the ACLU continued against the Scouts for years.
More recently, the Scouts have been harming themselves because of their own policy decisions. In 2013, membership dropped dramatically when the Scouts made the decision to affirm homosexuality among its members. After its long legal battles with the Supreme Court, BSA finally welcomed gay men to be leaders in 2015. It infamously welcomed girls and transgender youth in 2017.
Each of these are dramatic reminders of the serious dangers that can happen when traditionally, mission-minded organizations like the Boy Scouts stray from their values and heritage. This overwhelming tsunami of devastating lawsuits is sure to crush this once great organization.
Photo from Shutterstock