Boy Scouts File for Bankruptcy After Hundreds of Sex-Abuse Lawsuits

February 18, 2020 Updated: February 18, 2020
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One of the largest youth organizations in the United States on Feb. 18 filed for bankruptcy, according to a court document filed in Delaware bankruptcy court.

The Boy Scouts of America, which says it teaches young boys self-reliance, patriotism, and fitness, among other things, is facing mounting legal costs after defending itself against hundreds of lawsuits alleging the sexual abuse of boys.

The nonprofit, which celebrated its 110th anniversary on Feb. 8, sought Chapter 11 protection in a court filing on Feb. 18, listing liabilities of between $100 million and $500 million, but $50,000 or less in assets.

It said it made the filing to “equitably compensate victims who were harmed during their time in Scouting and continue carrying out its mission for years to come.”

As a result of the filing, all civil litigation against the organization is suspended. A spokesperson for BSA said that local councils are not filing for bankruptcy, because they are legally separate and distinct organizations.

Roger Mosby, president and chief executive officer of the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement: “BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologizes to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to harm innocent children.”

“While we know nothing can undo the tragic abuse that victims suffered, we believe the Chapter 11 process—with the proposed Trust structure—will provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining the BSA’s important mission.”

According to its website, BSA “promotes, through organization, and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in Scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues, using the methods which are now in common use by Boy Scouts.”

“One of the goals of the Boy Scouts of America is to provide, through chartered organizations, a program for boys, young men, and young women designed to encourage them to be faithful in their religious duties, build desirable qualities of character, train and involve them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develop in them personal fitness.”

However, the organization has faced a wave of sexual abuse claims, with a court testimony last year showing 7,819 scoutmasters or other volunteers had been accused of sexually abusing 12,254 children from 1944 through 2016.

At the time the figures were made public, BSA said it “believes the victims,” was providing them with “support,” and has “paid for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice.”

The organization confirmed it has maintained a volunteer screening database since the 1920s, and “at no time have we ever knowingly allowed a perpetrator to work with youth, and we mandate that all leaders, volunteers, and staff members nationwide immediately report any abuse allegation to law enforcement.”

The numerous lawsuits it has faced include a landmark 2020 case in which a Portland jury awarded $18.5 million to former Scout, 38-year-old Kerry Lewis, who alleged he was repeatedly molested by Timur Dykes, a Southeast Portland assistant Scoutmaster, when he was just 11 or 12 years old.

BSA has been facing a steady decline in recent years, with the number of youths taking part in Scouting dropping below 2 million, down from more than 4 million in peak years of the 1970s, prompting the organization to allow girls to become members.

However, memberships took a big hit on Jan. 1 when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—for decades a major sponsor of Boy Scout units—cut ties and withdrew more than 400,000 scouts in favor of programs of its own.

In 2018, BSA sued six of its insurers for refusing to cover its sex abuse liabilities. The insurers said their obligation was void because the Scouts refused to take effective preventive measures such as warning parents that boys might be abused.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.