As a Boy Scout in my youth and an adult adviser to an Explorer post later in life, I’m saddened this morning by news the Boy Scouts America filed for bankruptcy.
Saddened, but not surprised.
BSA faces hundreds of lawsuits of sexual abuse of scouts over too many years. Scouting has been a pond of ready availability for far too long and the organization apparently sees little chance of financial survival without the protection of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologizes to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to harm innocent children,” Roger Mosby, the president and CEO of the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement released around 1 a.m. Tuesday. “While we know nothing can undo the tragic abuse that victims suffered, we believe the Chapter 11 process — with the proposed Trust structure — will provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintaining the BSA’s important mission.”
I don’t buy that rationale for a second. If BSA really wanted to protect the abused scouts, it would have stepped up decades ago to admit the problem and take steps to correct it.
As an adult advisor for an Explorer post in Alton, IL, in the 1970s, I rebuffed an outright proposition by a 16-year-old girl who offered oral sex when I gave her a ride home after a meeting. When I reported the situation to the Scouting offices, I was told to “get used to it. Happens all the time.”
“If you decide to take advantage, just do so without getting caught,” another adviser told me. “These gals are something.”
I wrote to the national BSA headquarters to report the situation. They never even acknowledged. I left the program shortly afterward. I was an active single man with relationships with adult women at the time.
Sexual abuse of underage boys and girls is an escalating problem in this country. We even see it far too often here in Floyd County, where a well-known local musician faces an upcoming trial for sexual relations with an underage girl and production of child pornography by taking pictures of her in sexual acts.
He’s not alone. A now-former businessman and his Iraq-war veteran son went to prison for distribution of child pornography. A former high school athletic coach resides on the Virginia sexual abusers database. A self-declared “mountain man” in Floyd County is serving a prison sentence of more than 100 years for multiple accounts of child pornography. Prison, too, for a former Maryland Marine who tried to get together with a local 14-year-old for sex after using his computer to get her to pose nude for photos in graphic sexual activities.
An Indian valley pastor was charged with sexual abuse last year but the charges were dropped after the underage victim declined to testify. Sexual allegations against ministers are, unfortunately, common.
In 2018, a former pastor of the Oakwood Baptist Church in Camp Hill, Pa.. admitted he and other leaders of their church knew that his successor, Donald Foose, was a known sexual predator.
In 2000, Foose was convicted and jailed for molesting an underage relative. He resigned from his role as principal of a Christian school, and Pennsylvania’s Department of Education stripped him of his teaching license, deeming him “a danger to the health, safety, and welfare of students.” Under state law, Foose can’t even drive a school bus, and were he convicted after 2012 he would have been required by law to register as a sex offender
But Foose still became a pastor at Oakwood, then superintendent of the Oakwood Baptist Day School. Church leaders who were aware of his past concealed it from the congregation.
USA TODAY confirmed that since leaving Oakwood, Foose has preached in at least two other Baptist churches, in Pennsylvania and Virginia, where the congregants were unaware of his 2000 conviction.
The revelations at Oakwood occurred as the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest protestant denomination in the country with 15 million members, faced a crisis over sexual abuse that echoes the scandal in the Catholic Church. After a joint investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News last year documented abuse in Southern Baptist churches spanning 20 years and 700 victims, SBC leaders faulted a “culture of casual indifference to predatory sexual behavior.”
Casual indifference? That seems to be part of life among churches. Sexual abusing priests have existed for decades, perhaps centuries, in the Catholic Church. Many evangelical leaders have fallen because of the sexual abuse of underage parishioners.
They’re not alone. Our “leaders” have similar problems.
America’s current president admits multiple adulterous affairs, faces many allegations of sexual assault and abuse and was charged with raping an underage teenage model in New York City along with sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide jail.
“I grab them by the pussy,” Donald Trump bragged in a recorded conversation. He calls it “no big deal.”
Yet evangelical religious leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr., support Trump without reservation.
We have a new Supreme Court Justice called a sexual predator for abuse of a teen student during his prep school years and again by another woman. Sexual issues have sidelined several members of Congress.
Should sexual abuse, as leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention claim, be treated with “casual indifference?”
Let’s hope not.