The Boy Scouts of America are having more problems with their hypothetical ethics. The Scouts have consistently relied on a “moral code” defense to explain their refusal to allow gay Scouts or leaders. That same reasoning was trotted out again last month when the organization’s super-secret committee unanimously approved maintaining this bigoted ban. Sadly, the same reasoning doesn’t seem to apply to sexual predators and child molesters. Despite the existence of a super-secret “perversion file” (the Scouts do like their secrets, don’t they?), many men ejected from leadership roles for abuse later return to the organization.
Not unlike the Catholic Church, the Scouts have had a number of high-profile abuse cases in recent years. They have steadfastly refused to open their files, maintaining that the secrecy is what makes them effective. That’s proving a curiously bad arguement. A high-profile case in Oregon — in which the abused former Scout won nearly $20 million — resulted in court decision that the files cannot be kept secret. Prior to the release of those files, the Los Angeles Times used similar information from court cases in California to test the Scouts claim that the secret files protect young Scouts. The paper reported the results of that test this week.
[The] review of more than 1,200 files dating from 1970 to 1991 found more than 125 cases across the country in which men allegedly continued to molest Scouts after the organization was first presented with detailed allegations of abusive behavior. Predators slipped back into the program by falsifying personal information or skirting the registration process. Others were able to jump from troop to troop around the country thanks to clerical errors, computer glitches or the Scouts’ failure to check the blacklist.
In some cases, officials failed to document reports of abuse in the first place, letting offenders stay in the organization until new allegations surfaced. In others, officials documented abuse but merely suspended the accused leader or allowed him to continue working with boys while on “probation.” In at least 50 cases, the Boy Scouts expelled suspected abusers, only to discover later that they had reentered the program and were accused of molesting again.
One scoutmaster was expelled in 1970 for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in Indiana. Even after being convicted of the crime, he went on to join two troops in Illinois between 1971 and 1988. He later admitted to molesting more than 100 boys, was convicted of the sexual assault of a Scout in 1989 and was sentenced to 100 years in prison, according to his file and court records. In 1991, a Scout leader convicted of abusing a boy in Minnesota returned to his old troop — right after getting out of jail.
Bill Dworkin, a retired L.A. police expert on child sexual abuse who served as a witness in the Oregon case summed things up succinctly: “Basically, there were no controls.”
So, also like the Catholics, the Scouts demonize gays while allowing predators to move from troop to troop. Relying on faulty secrecy and an outdated “moral” stand that does far more harm than good, this organization allows children to suffer while pretending to protect them. Looks like the Boy Scouts need a pretty thorough overhaul before they can consider themselves “morally straight.”