Increasing discord between religious institutions and the Boy Scouts of America during bankruptcy case; SNAP stands with the survivors
The Boy Scouts of America’s bankruptcy has caused religious groups to be concerned with their own potential liability in these cases. Many faith communities sponsored scout units and allowed the church-owned property to be used as a meeting space for the BSA groups. But some had even deeper entanglements. While it is troubling to those religious organizations that sponsored scout groups to realize that they are not protected under bankruptcy, it is troubling to us that many of those abused in scouting were harmed by chaplains or other representatives of the sponsoring faith community.
For the churches to claim no liability at all is disingenuous. The reality is that the BSA and these religious groups were partners in scouting. The sponsors did not just offer a physical meeting space or access to camps, but also often supplied a chaplain. In some cases, those representatives of the church were the ones who abused the boys. An example of this is James Glawson, a former assistant Catholic chaplain at Camp Yawgoog Boy Scout summer camp in Hopkinton, Rhode Island, who was sentenced to serve 40 years in state prison for the sexual assault of six young men between 1981 and 2019. Another horrifying example is the late Father Louis Brouillard, a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Agana in Guam, who also worked as a scoutmaster. Fr. Brouillard is named in more than 150 abuse claims of the nearly 300 Guam clergy sex abuse claims filed since 2016.
We should also not forget that this scandal will continue to unfold for years to come. The average age for a survivor to come forward is 52. Recent abuse in the BSA, whether committed by those simply involved in scouting or by chaplains, may not become known for decades. Some mechanism must be created that provides these still silent victims some justice and compensation when they do finally come forward.
It would seem very likely that with more than 82,000 BSA lawsuits filed, more than a few are related to religious-affiliated chaplains and leaders. Absolving the religious groups of responsibility in these cases allows them to escape all culpability, when there may well be crimes either committed or enabled by officials of their faith.
In our view, these religious institutions should also be part of the equation in providing justice for survivors. The focus should be on piecing back together lives that have been forever altered by the harm they suffered, and the sponsoring churches are not necessarily blameless. Helping the 82,000 plus men who have filed claims, and those who have yet to disclose the damage done to them should be the concern of both the BSA and their religious partners.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)