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Scouting’s legacy comes with scars
On Monday, an organization spokesperson announced that the Boy Scouts of America is “actively considering” a change to their long-standing prohibition of homosexual Scouts and Scout leaders within their ranks.
Until this week, the BSA, one of America’s largest youth-oriented organizations, publicly prohibited openly gay participants from joining.
This surprising reversal of policy follows years of protests and discrimination lawsuits, but could be poised to change the Boy Scouts forever.
But that’s not the only reason the BSA should be in the news. In 1991, the Washington Times published a comprehensive investigation of widespread abuse within the ranks of the BSA, discovering that more than 1,000 Scouts reported sexual misconduct perpetrated by their Scoutmasters between 1971 and 1990.
This report, along with subsequent lawsuits from victimized Scouts against the organization, slowly revealed a systematic failure by the BSA to defend their youthful members from pedophiles within their ranks, or even acknowledge that the problem existed in the first place.
On several occasions, abusers would only confess their crimes and resign from the organization after the BSA guaranteed they wouldn’t take the information to the authorities.
Scout leaders frequently convinced the parents of sexually abused children from going to the police, and in some cases, even worked with corrupt law enforcement officials to ensure that incidents weren’t reported.
In fact, in more than 80 percent of molestation cases, Scout officials made no effort to bring the matter to police attention.
Instead, the BSA administration preferred to police themselves, by keeping detailed records on Scout leaders suspected of sexual misconduct.
These so-called “perversion files” eventually grew to more than 100,000 pages as suspected abuse piled up in Scout troops across the United States.
But some of the men named in these documents weren’t child molesters—they were simply suspected homosexuals, and innocent of any sexual crimes.
Considering the organization’s expected upcoming policy change on homosexual members, we think this knowledge can’t be made too public.
These files were almost entirely strictly confidential until 2012, when a court order released nearly 20 years worth of evidence. These records are essential to ongoing lawsuits against both the BSA and individual abusers, and the wall is still crumbling down—yesterday, a Minnesota judge ordered the release of additional documents from the “perversion files” as evidence in a sexual abuse case.
The bright side of these lawsuits and investigations is that it’s becoming harder to turn a blind eye towards the pervasive “code of silence” mentality that allows such terrible crimes to go unpunished for so long. After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
The Boy Scouts of America, by all accounts, has abandoned this secretive and grossly unethical behavior, and to some, their integrity may have returned.
But that doesn’t mean we should ever forget this organization’s shocking and unfortunate past.