Facing a Wave of Sex-Abuse Claims, Boy Scouts of America Files for Bankruptcy
The nonprofit group, which counts more than two million youth participants, follows Catholic dioceses and U.S.A. Gymnastics in seeking bankruptcy protection amid sex-abuse cases.
Hoping to contain a growing deluge of sexual-abuse lawsuits, the Boy Scouts of America took shelter in bankruptcy court on Tuesday, filing for Chapter 11 protection that will let it keep operating while it grapples with serious questions about whether the century-old Scouting movement has a viable future.
The bankruptcy filing affects only the national organization, not the state and local councils that run scouting programs day to day. Even so, the case sets up one of the most complex and uncertain financial restructurings in American history. Thousands of people have already lodged allegations that they were abused as scouts, and many more are expected to come forward.
The Boy Scouts, whose mission to promote patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred virtues was enshrined in a rare congressional charter in 1916, said it plans to continue its work “for many years to come.”
The bankruptcy court in Delaware that is handling the case is likely to freeze the lawsuits against the group and set a deadline for filing any more claims. But Jim Turley, the group’s national chairman, said in an open letter to victims of sexual abuse that the Boy Scouts were not trying to dodge responsibility for compensating them. Instead, he said, the organization wanted to do so as equitably as possible through a victim’s compensation trust, rather than piecemeal in lawsuit after lawsuit.
“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,” Mr. Turley said.
Tim Kosnoff, a lawyer for an Abused in Scouting group that now has close to 2,000 clients, said that while he’s open to hearing how the Boy Scouts intends to reform itself, he finds it “difficult to impossible” to envision the organization operated in a restructured form.
“It would require changing into something people wouldn’t recognize as scouting,” said Mr. Kosnoff, noting the organization’s history of sending boys on remote outings with volunteer leaders.
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