Iowa churches are asked to stop Boy Scout Troop charters; SNAP denounces Methodist Bishop’s remarks.

Bishop Laurie Haller, head of the Iowa Area of the United Methodist Church, sent a message to parishes in the state to stop chartering Boy Scouts troops because of child sex abuse lawsuits by former scouts. This directive is intended to shield the churches from further liability since it has been discovered that the Boy Scouts of America do not have sufficient insurance to cover sponsoring parishes. In 2020, more than 3,000 United Methodist churches chartered over 9,000 scouting units serving more than 300,000 youth, according to United Methodist Men, which oversees the denomination’s scouting ministries.

To us, it seems that Bishop Haller is more concerned about liability and preserving the finances of the church than about protecting the boys who participate in Methodist troops. We have seen this scenario unfold in other denominations. Catholic parishes nationwide also played host to many Boy Scout groups, to the detriment of countless children. Catholic bishops would shuffle perpetrators from place to place, while BSA supervisors would quietly encourage abusive scoutmasters to resign without notifying the parents of troop members or sponsoring parishes as to why. Both organizations also used euphemisms to sanitize the abuse and tried to keep their secrets hidden from the public; the Catholic bishops had their "secret archives" and the BSA had its "perversion files."  To date, we have not seen as much effort by these organizations to minister to the wounded.
The message from Bishop Haller should be focused on a demand for changes within the BSA, not a focus on the financials. Methodist bishops like her should use their power and bully pulpit as leverage to demand that scouting come clean about past abuse and demonstrate how they will change.

Finally, we find it very disturbing that Bishop Haller, at least as reported, does not express any concern for the boys harmed in scouting, including those abused in Methodist troops. The Bishop should be telling her parishes how many former Methodist scouts have come forward alleging abuse, and who they have accused. Parents and future parents need this information. It would not only help the wounded to heal, but it would also help keep today's children safer. 


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