The nonprofit group, which counts more than two million youth participants, follows Catholic dioceses and U.S.A. Gymnastics in seeking bankruptcy protection amid sex-abuse cases.
UNITED STATES (USA Today) – Hoping to contain an avalanche of sexual-abuse lawsuits, the Boy Scouts of America took shelter in bankruptcy court on Tuesday, filing for Chapter 11 protection that will let the group keep operating while it grapples with questions about the future of the century-old Scouting movement.
The Boy Scouts of America face multiple child sexual abuse allegations that have illuminated the depth of the problem within the organization and Scouts’ failure to get a handle on it.
After months of speculation and mounting civil litigation, the Chapter 11 filing by the scouting organization’s national body was unprecedented in both scope and complexity. It was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware overnight.
In court filings, the Boy Scouts said it faces 275 abuse lawsuits in state and federal courts around the country, plus another 1,400 potential claims.
The national organization said in its filing that it had assets exceeding $1 billion and liabilities in the $500 million to $1 billion range. A major issue in the case is expected to be whether the assets of local Boy Scouts councils, which own most Boy Scout camps and facilities, should also be tapped for the compensation fund.
The exact effects on Boy Scouts’ future operations are unknown, leading to speculation about the organization’s odds for survival, the impact on local troops and how bankruptcy could change the dynamic for abuse survivors who have yet to come forward. Some fear that at a minimum it will prevent survivors from naming their abuser in open court.
The bankruptcy filing was made by the national organization, and does not involve the local councils that run day-to-day programs.
The Boy Scouts, whose mission to promote patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred virtues was enshrined in a rare congressional charter in 1916, said it plans to continue its work “for many years to come.”
In a 1935 article in The New York Times, the organization described having files on hundreds of people who had been scout leaders but had been labeled “degenerates.” In recent years, an expert hired by the organization reviewed decades of records and reported that there were nearly 8,000 “perpetrators.”
The Boy Scouts fought the release of some of the files in an Oregon case, in which a jury held the Scouts liable in 2010 for $18.5 million in punitive damages. Two years later, the Oregon Supreme Court ordered that the records in that case be made public.
The Boy Scouts said in April 2019 that every account of suspected abuse in the group’s files had been reported to law enforcement, and that it had never knowingly allowed people who harm children to work with them. The group later acknowledged that decades before, some volunteers who were credibly accused of abuse had in fact been allowed to return.
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