BSA can boast of having had some 2.1 million members over the years but the present scenario is a stark contrast to its long-gone glory days.
Trigger warning: The story contains details of child sexual abuse.
One of the largest and oldest non-profit organizations in the United States, the Boy Scouts Of America (BSA) has filed for bankruptcy in light of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits it has faced over the years. According to reports, these lawsuits may even outnumber those lodged against another non-profit organization - the Catholic Church. Following this action, the civil lawsuits against the organization have been suspended and henceforth have to be filed in bankruptcy courts. Established on February 10, 1910, BSA can still boast of having had nearly 2.1 million members but the present scenario is a stark contrast to its long-gone glory days.
Over the years, the membership has dwindled and the organization has been trying to stay relevant by repositioning itself by partnering with new organizations and through various other measures like electing a new chief. According to CNN, the listed liabilities by the company is between $100 million and $500 million and $50,000 or less in assets. The sexual abuse lawsuits against BSA have been filed all over the country that includes allegations such as forced anal or oral sex, repeated fondling, exposure to pornography. As of April last year it is believed as many as 12,000 children were abused over the course of 72 years by 7,800 of its former leaders.
@boyscouts bankruptcy is an “acknowledgment finally...that they had this enormous problem & the problem is so large that they can’t deal with it themselves,” said Michael Pfau, co-counsel w us representing dozens of Boy Scout victims. https://t.co/EnfuQS95Hv— Jennifer Freeman (@JenniferFreemn) February 18, 2020
The organization had itself referred to about 120 allegations of abuse to law enforcement for further investigation. When these claims first surfaced, BSA offered a pity apology via a statement and said it cared "deeply" for all the victims of child abuse and also "sincerely apologized" to anyone who was harmed "during their time in Scouting." They also admitted that there were a number of individuals from the organization who "took advantage of our program to abuse innocent children" and that stated they were "outraged" by the same. The organization added, "We believe victims, we support them, we pay for counseling by a provider of their choice and we encourage them to come forward."
It further said, "It is the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) policy that all incidents of suspected abuse are reported to law enforcement." The news of the bankruptcy filing has also taken the victims by surprise. Michael Pfau, an attorney in Seattle is representing some 300 alleged abuse victims across the country and said, "They (victims) won't have to give depositions involving their life history. Their lives won't be scrutinized, but they lose their right to a jury trial. For a lot of abuse survivors, telling their story in a court of law and forcing the organizations to defend their actions can be cathartic. That won't happen with a bankruptcy."
Another lawyer, Paul Mones from Los Angeles who is also representing many sexual abuse victims in individual lawsuits, called the filing a "tragedy." Mones said, "These young boys took an oath. They pledged to be obedient, pledged to support the Scouts and pledged to be honorable. Many of them are extremely angry that that's not what happened to them and the Boy Scouts of America did not step up in the way they should have." Mone is part of a team that won an $18.5 million verdict against BSA for a former Scout. He added that instead of potentially having their day in court, the victims will now have to file their claim in bankruptcy court.
Just in December last year, BSA had announced a former scout as its president. Roger C. Mosby was named as the new CEO and President of the organization. He apologized to the abuse victims while also promising to implement "strong policies to prevent abuse." A number of famous personalities such as ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former Secretary of Defence Robert Gates were members of the BSA once, according to a BBC report. The report also stated that the filing will also allow the organization to bring all of the lawsuits into one court rather than fight them in different courts across the country.