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Gays, pedophiles
lumped together in Scouts' "degenerates" file

Gays, pedophiles
lumped together in Scouts' "degenerates" file


The Washington State supreme court has forced the Boy Scouts of America to turn over "ineligible volunteer" files that reveal a sexual abuse problem among Scout leaders that is far greater than the organization previously admitted.

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The Washington State supreme court has forced the Boy Scouts of America to turn over "ineligible volunteer" files that reveal a sexual abuse problem among Scout leaders that is far greater than the organization previously admitted.

Although justices ruled that the files themselves would not be made public, attorneys said the Boy Scouts "have ejected at least 5,100 adult leaders nationwide for sexual abuse allegations since 1946," according to the Seattle Times.

In the past 15 years, the organization has kicked out leaders for abuse allegations at a rate of one every other day.

The ruling stemmed from a 2003 suit filed by two former scouts, brothers Tom and Matt Stewart, now men in their 40s, who say they were sexually molested by a scoutmaster over many years.

The records they obtained show that, as part of the "ineligible volunteer" files, the organization retained information on 1,000 "degenerates." The Stewarts' attorneys counted 732 "degenerate" files from 1946 to 1971 among the 45 boxes of files ordered disclosed by the BSA.

Lumped together as "degenerates" were both volunteers known to be gay and known to be pedophiles.

Jon Davidson, legal director of Lambda Legal, told that the Boy Scouts of America understood that those two groups had little, if anything, to do with each other.

"Even the organization's literature says it's a myth that gay men are more likely to engage in sexual abuse than straight men," Davidson said. "They never have asserted that (potential pedophilia) is a reason to exclude gay men from the Scouts. They simply insist that gay men don't make good role models."

In the 1990s, Lambda Legal fought to reinstate James Dale as scoutmaster after the Boy Scouts kicked him out upon learning he is gay. Though Dale and Lambda Legal were victorious in the New Jersey appeals court and the New Jersey supreme court, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the unanimous decision, ruling that because it is a private group, the Boy Scouts had a constitutional right to exclude openly gay people from leadership positions. The organization also does not allow openly gay scouts.

Davidson was quick to reject the notion that pedophilia involving boys and homosexual sex are related.

"Pedophiles often become Boy Scout leaders because they can have access to kids. But for most of them, it's about (abusing) kids before puberty, and the gender of the child is less important. Research has shown that the group least likely to engage with sex with boys are open and out gay men."

The new revelations have put the Scouts under closer scrutiny for their handling of molestation charges and potential abuse.

David Finkelhor, who heads the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, told that, for the 15 years he served on a board of advisers that helped Scouts combat abuse, he was frustrated by their secrecy.

"On the one hand, they had developed a very progressive and comprehensive abuse prevention program and put time and money into that, and at the same time they wouldn't even let our board see files that would have helped us track cases over time," Finkelhor said.

Although Scout officials won't talk about the cases, they affirm that volunteers represent a small fraction of the 1.2 million adults who participate in the organization every year and stress that new background checks and training prevent such problems.

Despite the new safeguards, the secrecy in the 97-year-old organization closely mirrors the stonewalling of the Roman Catholic Church, according to David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

"In many institutions, especially those with rigid, clear lines of authority, there is a temptation to obsess over public image and perceived short-term damage from scandal and litigation rather than focusing on real long-term solutions, and the most glaring example of that is the Catholic Church," Clohessy told

Clohessy, who has counseled dozens of abused scouts over the years, in addition to those who were abused in the church, said he expects many more scouts to come forward with these new revelations.

"The strongest motivator for coming forward is public awareness," Clohessy said.

"And that hinges on legal actions. Unfortunately, that's tough when you have an arbitrary statute of limitations that can give victims no legal options. That tends to keep them trapped in shame and isolation." (Larry Buhl,

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Gays, pedophiles
lumped together in Scouts' "degenerates" file

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