Since early last year, the Boy Scouts of America has been going through bankruptcy proceedings in large part because of financial pressures (due to low membership) and legal costs (associated with paying out settlements for victims of abuse). They proposed putting $850 million in a pot to pay all their legal bills; in return, they avoided all future lawsuits.
But now, as the Associated Press reports, that proposition is creating a new set of problems because the 40,000 BSA affiliates associated with outside groups (including churches) would be left out of the deal. That means faith-based Scout troops could eventually face their own sexual abuse lawsuits.
The United Methodist Church — which says up to 5,000 of its U.S. congregations could be affected by future lawsuits — recently advised those churches not to extend their charters with the BSA beyond the end of this year. The UMC said these congregations were “disappointed and very concerned” that they weren’t included in the July deal.
Officials of several other denominations — including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — have advised their churches to hire their own legal counsel if they fear possible sex-abuse litigation.
My schadenfreude is acting up again.
After excluding open atheists for decades — even after they finally allowed gay troops, gay leaders, trans boys, and girls to join — it looks like thousands of religiously affiliated BSA groups are going to be screwed because they decided partnering with a discriminatory organization was worth it.
The Scouts say negotiations aren’t complete yet, and that their insurance may protect groups with abuse cases that occurred after 1976. But if something happened before that? Oh well. The Mormon Church is already trying to limit the damage:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took such a step last week, agreeing to contribute $250 million to a compensation fund in exchange for a release from further liability.
As the AP notes, the LDS Church can do that because it has a centralized governing structure. Other religions aren’t organized the same way, so groups may be on their own. They’ll have to navigate the wreckage in courts.
And in case you’re thinking the lawsuits can’t be that damning, consider this: When the Boy Scouts took the bankruptcy route last year, they thought they were dealing with roughly 5,000 sexual abuse lawsuits. The AP says “it now faces 82,500.” (Not a typo.)
Of course, all of this could have been avoided had religious leaders (including the Boy Scout leaders) taken active measures to prevent abuse, but that’s never been their strong suit. It’s the same reason the Catholic Church isn’t alone in dealing with the fallout after generations of neglect.
Bankruptcy is the easy way out. If these religious organizations have to pay a price for sex abuse that took place 50 years ago, then too damn bad. Let them suffer. It’s about time the victims got justice, no matter what form it takes.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Scott for the link)