The Boy Scouts of America, facing huge legal costs to defend itself against sexual abuse allegations, has filed for bankruptcy protection.
The group filed Tuesday for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of federal bankruptcy law, The New York Times reports. BSA officials promised the organization would continue to operate, however, “for many years to come.”
The filing will allow the BSA to “keep operating while it grapples with serious questions about whether the century-old Scouting movement has a viable future,” the Times reports. It affects only the national organization, not state or local Boy Scout councils.
A group called Abused in Scouting has nearly 2,000 clients with complaints of sexual abuse. The Delaware bankruptcy court where the BSA filed Chapter 11 “is likely to freeze the lawsuits against the group and set a deadline for filing any more claims,” according to the Times.
“If you’ve ever considered coming forward, now is the time,” Tim Kosnoff, a lawyer for Abused in Scouting, told the newspaper.
Robbie Pierce, a 39-year-old Los Angeles resident, told the Times he and his brother, along with several other boys, were abused in a BSA camp as youths. Under the guise of a medical examination, a scout leader, who was not a medical professional, had the boys take off their clothes, and then he fondled their genitals.
Pierce, who is the husband of Advocate executive editor Neal Broverman, said that while he had positive experiences in scouting as well, he now believes the group must be shut down seriously reformed.
“It provides pedophiles with access to boys,” Pierce told the Times. “That has to stop. I don’t know if that means getting rid of the Boy Scouts, or some new oversight.”
The BSA had 5 million members in the 1970s but counts only half that many now. “In response, the Boy Scouts have tried to shift closer to evolving societal norms,” the Times notes. “Membership requirements were changed to allow openly gay scouts in 2013, and then openly gay leaders in 2015. The Boy Scouts expanded to allow girls to participate starting in 2017. But the legal pressures from past sexual abuse continued to mount.”
Jim Turley, national chairman of the BSA, put out an open letter saying the bankruptcy filing was not a means to avoid compensating those who were abused. The group plans to set up a trust to do so equitably, he said.
“I want you to know that we believe you, we believe in compensating you, and we have programs in place to pay for counseling for you and your family by a provider of your choice,” he said.