The Boy Scout Oath:
<i>On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.</i>
Boy Scouts have followed that oath through more than a century of Scouting. As it turns out, though, many of their leaders have not.
The group that so stubbornly bans "open or avowed homosexuals" to supposedly protect its participants for decades has protected child molesters who harmed scouts while working or volunteering for the organization. Boy Scouts of America kept secret files on the molesters in an attempt to bar them from scouting, but in many cases did nothing to alert law enforcement or the general public about the threat those molesters posed to the greater community.
They protected their "good" name instead of protecting children. Hardly a "morally straight" policy.
On Thursday, thousands of pages of those files — known inside BSA as the "perversion files" — were made public. They outline the cases against some 1,200 adult Scout leaders who abused or were suspected of abusing kids in their care. Some were from the North Bay.
The files paint a picture of an organization that was more concerned about its reputation, and often the reputation of the molesters, than it was about the well-being of the children who were victimized. They paint a picture of an organization that, like the Catholic Church in its own molestation scandals, was held in high esteem by our society and was entrusted with the care and education of millions of children, yet chose to turn its back on those children when they needed it most.
In one Santa Rosa case from 1969, an assistant scoutmaster admitted that he had suggested to a young scout that "he might indulge in an indecent act with me," but the boy refused. The scoutmaster's name was "red flagged" by BSA, but there is no indication he was reported to authorities.
In another case, from 1968, a former employee of the Sonoma-Mendocino Council of the BSA was revealed to have been convicted of child molestation after he left the scouting job. In a letter asking his name to be placed in the national organization's "confidential files" to keep him from re-connecting with scouting, the local scout executive wrote, "Fortunately for the Scouting Movement, the general public are not aware of what (the man) had done."
The files raise a lot of questions about the Boy Scouts, but they also raise two disturbing questions about our society: How were we so blind to what was going on in trusted organizations such as the Scouts and the Church in the 1970s and 1980s, and how well are the protections put in place since then working today?
Of course, the exploitation of children didn't start in the &‘70s. In fact the Boy Scouts started compiling their files on unwanted adult leaders as early as 1919. The 20-year portion of them released Thursday is the result of a court order after they were used as key pieces of evidence in a 2010 Portland, Ore., abuse trial. That trial resulted in a $20 million judgment against BSA.
It also revealed a long pattern of covering up crimes against children within the organization, according to reporting by the Los Angeles Times about files released in a previous case that dates to 1992.