The Boy Scouts of America failed to report hundreds of suspected child sex abusers to authorities and often helped cover up the accusations over two decades, the Los Angeles Times reported on Sept. 16.
In a review of 1,600 of the organization’s confidential “perversion” files dating from 1970 to 1991, the newspaper found that Scout leaders helped suspected molesters push the allegations under the rug in about 400 instances.
One of those cases took place in Pennsylvania. In 1976, five Boy Scouts filed detailed complaints against a Pennsylvania scoutmaster, accusing him of rape and other sexual abuse. The scoutmaster resigned, saying he had to travel more for work. A troop leader wished the man luck and said he accepted the resignation with extreme regret.
The Scouts have fought to keep the files confidential, but they emerged as part of a lawsuit against the organization, the Times said. The files date back to 1919 and were kept as a type of “blacklist” of people unfit to serve in the organization.
While the Scouts found out about most suspected molesters after the allegations were reported directly to authorities, in about 500 instances leaders were notified directly by parents, boys and staff members.
In most of those cases, Scout leaders failed to report the suspicions to police.
In a 1982 Michigan case, a camp director told police that he did not immediately report accusations about a staff member because higher-ups told him they wanted to protect the Scouts’ reputation and the staff member.
In another 1982 case in Virginia, a camp director wrote a letter to the Scouts’ top lawyer, saying something needed to be done about a veteran employee suspected of a “lifelong pattern” of abuse who had never been reported to police. Instead, the director wrote that the accused employee had simply been asked to resign.
In a statement, Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said the organization today requires members to report any suspicion of abuse directly to local authorities and has always fully cooperated with police.
That reporting policy was instituted in 2010. Before that, the organization told leaders they had to comply with state laws about reporting suspected abuse.
The Times found several instances where leaders did not appear to comply with state law. New Jersey, for example, has required the reporting of sex abuse allegations since the early 1970s, but nothing appeared to have been done about several complaints listed in the files.
In some cases, Scout leaders’ lax treatment of the alleged offenders allowed them to keep abusing children, the Times said.
In 1984, Arthur Humphries was arrested in Chesapeake, Va., on child molestation charges. Scout leader Jack Terwilliger told a local newspaper that no one had suspected Humphries of abuse, but in 1978, Terwilliger ordered that a 12-year-old Scout be interviewed about Humphries’ sex acts with him.
Terwilliger later gave Humphries a glowing job reference and Humphries went on to abuse 20 Boy Scouts before his arrest in 1984. Both Terwilliger and Humphries are dead.
The Oregon Supreme Court in June ordered more than 1,200 more confidential files to be released soon.
The BSA claims to be a private entity that prepares young people to make ethical and moral choices and promotes religious values. Citing that mission, the BSA maintains a constitutional right to ban gays and atheists from employment and membership.