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Culture Investigations

Boy Scouts Face At Least 82,000 Sex Abuse Claims

Today is the deadline set by a bankruptcy court for filing a sex-abuse claim against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).  The number of claims so far filed now exceed 82,000, far more than the 9,000 claims filed in Catholic Church cases.

The BSA filed bankruptcy in February of this year in part to limit the liability of sex abuse claims.

In 2010, the Boy Scouts lost a $20-million child sexual abuse case, and that case revealed the existence of a so-called “perversion file,” a list of who were barred from being Scout leaders.  However, critics of the Boy Scouts say that list was not made available to local councils.  That failure could be a factor in the sexual abuse of yet more boys – a number that now appears to be in the tens of thousands.

Tim Kosnoff, an attorney who has tried thousands of child abuse cases, including many against the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church, told USA Today: “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.”

However, it is not clear that the Scouts do, in fact, have money to weather the onslaught.  The Boy Scouts have about $1.5-billion in assets, much of it real estate, including Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.  Local Scout councils also have dozens of camps scattered around the country.  NPR estimated that the value of these camps could exceed $3-billion.  However, many of these assets – including Philmont, as has been previously reported by MinistryWatch — are already encumbered with mortgages.  Financial hardships of the past year have forced many local councils to combine and sell off camps and other assets in order to survive.

Paul Mones is a lawyer who has worked on Boy Scouts cases for nearly two decades.  He told The New York Times “the prevalence of abuse detailed in the filings was breathtaking and might reflect only a fraction of victims.”

“I knew there were a lot of cases,” Mones told the Times. “I never contemplated it would be a number close to this.”

Other lawyers have banded together to share the load of filing the thousands of cases.  One group calls itself Abused in Scouting and has clients from all 50 states and overseas at military bases in Japan and Germany. The accusers range in age from 8 to 93. While the vast majority are men, some women have also filed complaints.

The more than 82,000 cases will have to go through a vetting process before they proceed, but the sheer number of them make possible the possibility that the liability to the Boy Scouts could be in the billions of dollars, far exceeding the value of the organization’s assets.

In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America said it was “devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting.” The organization said it had sought an accessible process for survivors to seek compensation. “The response we have seen from survivors has been gut wrenching.  We are deeply sorry.”

Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.