Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy earlier this year in a move that says more about the organization’s commitment to staying open than its commitment to righting the wrongs perpetrated on so many boys and young men by its leaders. As a result of BSA’s Chapter 11 filing, victims and survivors of abuse at the hands of thousands of scout leaders will be faced with the daunting decision of whether to come forward regardless of whether they are psychologically prepared to do so.
A Washington Post article states that Internal BSA documents dating back to the 1940s show that sexual predators have been preying on Boy Scouts for decades. An investigation commissioned by BSA showed that the organization was aware of nearly 8,000 individuals within its ranks that had assaulted over 12,000 boys.
BSA’s organization and structure makes the bankruptcy complicated. While it is indeed a national organization, its land, camps, and other assets are owned individually by local councils. And, while BSA has assured local councils that their assets will not be used for funds needed in the bankruptcy filing, those councils are scrambling to assure their members that their activities and groups will not be impacted.
They may, however, want to hold off on making such assurances. According to one attorney who represents 300 victims of Boy Scout sexual abuse, belief that individual councils will not be impacted may not be realistic “because in every Boy Scout case we file, the local councils are named.”
It is worth noting that 70% of BSA’s wealth is held by its local councils and not the national organization and BSA is not known for transparency when describing its finances. According to Indiana University associate law professor Pamela Foohey who was cited in the Post’s article, “[I]t’s hard to tell exactly who’s on the line for some of these claims,” although she does leave room for BSA’s bankruptcy proceedings to shine a brighter light on the organization’s overall financial structure moving forward.
One thing, however, is crystal-clear. Like the Catholic Church, BSA will do everything in its power to sweep these accusations away and continue on with business as usual. And with membership dwindling at an ever-increasing pace, it may not have much longer regardless of how it decides to try to settle the matter of its leaders and their assaults on the boys under their care.