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February 19, 2020

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Boy Scouts filing for bankruptcy

The Boy Scouts of America yesterday announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid a flood of lawsuits over allegations of child sexual abuse stretching back decades.

The bankruptcy is not expected to affect the organization’s programs, which promote self-reliance through outdoor activities like hiking and camping. The group was already struggling with declining membership and controversy over admitting gay and female members.

The Boy Scouts, based in Irving, Texas, has said it sincerely apologizes to anyone harmed, believes the accusers and encourages victims to come forward.

Founded in 1910, the organization has been overwhelmed by hundreds of claims after several states, including New York, removed legal hurdles that prevented people from suing over old child sex-abuse allegations.

Changes to the law coincided with the #MeToo movement and a shift in public opinion more supportive of accusers. The result has been a wave of lawsuits against church leaders, doctors and schools, as well as scouting.

“We can live up to our social and moral responsibilities to fairly compensate victims while also ensuring that we carry out our mission to serve youth, families and local communities through our programs,” said a Boy Scout official.

“The bankruptcy is being filed as a result of decades of concealing abuse by the Boy Scouts and their adult leaders,” said Paul Mones, who represents hundreds of men claiming they were abused as scouts.

Filed in the state of Delaware, the bankruptcy will allow the Boy Scouts to bring all of the lawsuits into one court and try to negotiate a settlement, rather than using the organization’s funds to fight each case in court, which might leave some victims without any compensation.

More than 20 Catholic dioceses and USA Gymnastics used a similar bankruptcy strategy to resolve sex-abuse lawsuits.

Determining the value of Boy Scout assets, however, could be challenging. In its most recent annual report, the organization stated a figure of US$1.5 billion. But hundreds of local councils have their own assets, and victims may try to make those available for settling claims as well.

Membership in the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts (for younger children) fell 13 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to the annual report.

The organization lost a major source of support when the Mormon church announced it would no longer sponsor scouting troops, which came shortly after the Boy Scouts said it would drop “boy” from its name in order to admit transgender scouts. The church denied it was influenced by the change.


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