Throughout its 109-year history, Boy Scouts of America has consistently held itself out to the public as a moral and safe environment for young boys to participate in healthy outdoor activities. But as revealed by the “Ineligible Volunteer Files,” BSA has for nearly a century been secretly removing scoutmasters for child sexual abuse at an alarming rate, reaching an average of one every three days in the 1970s.
As a child sexual abuse litigator who has handled more than a thousand cases, I can say without hesitation that BSA’s lax application of screening methods and apparent pattern of cover-ups exposed countless children to the worst of the worst child rapists. The group’s failure to report these monsters to police or civil authorities allowed some of the most sinister offenders to infiltrate other youth-serving organizations and enter back into scouting, re-registering under new identities.
In 2017, America’s “Most Trusted Institution” spent nearly $950,000 in lobbying efforts, much of which went to defeating legislation that would give victims more time to sue their abusers. The egregious nature of the group’s advocacy has drawn scrutiny from at least nine members of Congress.
It’s time for Congress to hold hearings regarding BSA’s long tolerance of child molestation in scouting.
It’s time for Congress to terminate BSA’s federal subsidies until its lobbying efforts stop, and to investigate whether the group should be allowed to renew its Congressional Charter as the oldest and largest youth-serving organization in America.
Congress granted BSA a federal charter in 1916, giving it exclusive rights to the BSA name, badges, descriptive words, markings, and emblems. Boy Scouts of America has derived millions of dollars per year licensing the rights to these federally protected assets. It garners tremendous income from its reward-based system that obligates scouts to purchase badges, emblems, and other paraphernalia.
Besides being endowed by Congress with exclusive economic rights, BSA also receives federal funding, membership dues, private donations, and corporate sponsorship. With an income exceeding $780 million per year, Boy Scouts of America is the 18th largest nonprofit in the United States.
While scouting has been a positive influence on the lives of many millions, the great good it has provided is being drowned out by its unraveling history of allowing child molesters to enter its ranks. In fact, the head of the BSA program for safeguarding scouts from abuse was in 2005 convicted of trafficking child porn.
The roots of the problem run deep, and BSA’s recent lobbying push is reminiscent of an organization that cares more about protecting its brand than bringing child rapists to justice.
Victims of child sex abuse often suffer in silence—preferring to take the shame and humiliation to their graves. Those who come forward even as adults should have legal recourse, but if BSA is allowed to continue its lobbying efforts unchecked, an untold number of child rapists who preyed on scouts may escape exposure and punishment.
Boy Scouts of America is now considering chapter 11 bankruptcy as it faces nearly 250 lawsuits for alleged child sex abuse. Its insurance carriers are refusing to settle these claims.
My 25 years’ experience tell me this is just the tip of the iceberg, and BSA is about to be inundated with a flood of lawsuits that will eclipse the Catholic Church bankruptcies we’ve seen over the past 15 years.
Tim Kosnoff is a an attorney, consultant and writer. For twenty five years he represented more than a thousand survivors of child sexual abuse in litigation against churches and secular organizations. Tim’s first civil child sexual abuse sexual abuse case against the Mormon Church resulted in a $3 million dollar settlement. That story was chronicled in the 2011 book The Sins of Brother Curtis by Lisa Davis.