The Boy Scouts of America is a hallowed cultural institution. It has existed for over 100 years and has been a fixture in the life of boys all over the nation. But now the specter of financial ruin looms larger and larger over the Scouts, as more and more cases of sexual abuse against the organization are brought. With the passage of window legislation in New York which took effect in mid-August and in New Jersey which takes effect in December 1st , cases of sexual abuse involving a minor threaten to unleash a torrent of new cases that may push the nonprofit organization to its breaking point. The problem will only get worse for the Boy Scouts if California Governor Newsom signs a new bill just passed in mid-September that would open a three-year window for victims of sexual abuse to sue.
Delivering Justice for Survivors of BSA Abuse
The legal war that the BSA now finds itself immersed in began in earnest in 2010 with the efforts of sexual abuse attorney, Paul Mones and his team winning the largest verdict ever against the Boy Scouts (19.8 million dollars) and in the process securing the release of thousands of internal documents (the Perversion Files) which confirmed the Boy Scouts knowledge of its sordid history of sexual abuse dating back decades. Thanks to the cultural hot button that is the “#metoo” movement and the sexual abuse crises in other institutions like the Catholic Church and USA Gymnastics, victims have begun to feel empowered to seek justice from their abusers no matter how long ago the abuse may have transpired and an increasing number of states are beginning to help them in their pursuit.
As the organization stares down the precipice of financial ruin it also increasingly faces a changing landscape of youth culture in America. The numbers of Boy Scout members have been declining for years. The BSA has had to balance maintaining their relationships with traditional groups and institutions that have long supported and encouraged scouting, while reaching out to new demographics that were traditionally excluded from participation and volunteerism.
Boy Scouts of America and the Mormon Church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (otherwise known as the Mormon church) has been one of the biggest supporters of scouting for over a century, with hundreds of thousands of Mormon boys participating in the organization yearly. In fact, the Church was the largest single charter organization making up the Boy Scouts of America for decades. Despite a 2000 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right to exclude members based on their sexuality, the BSA has pivoted in the opposite direction over the course of this decade, making scouting and volunteering available to people regardless of their sexual orientation and gender. Unfortunately for the BSA, their new modern approach to remain relevant in society has alienated them from the groups and institutions it could once count on as its most ardent supporters.
For example, in 2013 the BSA allowed “openly” gay boys to participate in scouting and within two years had expanded the policy to include openly gay men as scout leaders. Despite exceptions reserved for church-based troops to omit the new policies, the Mormon church has begun the process of divorcing itself from the boy scouts and will no longer encourage participation in scouting after 2019. With decreasing numbers of participation in scouting depleting the organization of revenue and the ever-increasing number of legal settlements for abuse cases the BSA is at perhaps its most critical juncture in its century old existence .