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What Brought Down the Boy Scouts?

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by Kate Brunotts

Amongst hundreds of open sexual assault cases, Boy Scouts of America has officially filed for bankruptcy. Boy Scouts, which serves as the largest scouting organization, is no stranger to controversy. Let’s take a look at how the collective’s problematic policies were bound to lead them astray. 

Sexual Abuse

The organization currently has hundreds of lawsuits from victims of sexual assault and abuse. Bankruptcy automatically suspends these cases. 

While some victims are happy to see the organization finally facing some accountability, many feel that the punishment does not fit the crime. Many of the lawsuits depict repeated groping and forced oral sex

Boy Scouts have since made it so no child scout can be alone with an adult leader without another adult present. It seems like they enforce this policy pretty strictly, but that doesn’t make the damage that was already done suddenly go away. 

Moreover, it’s important to note that a lot of these cases come as a result of the adjustment of California’s statute of limitations regarding child abuse victims. The updated law, which came into place fall of 2019, expanded the age at which victims were eligible to sue their perpetrators.

The new law gives victims of childhood sexual abuse until age 40, or five years after abuse, to file civil lawsuits. Prior to new legislation, the limit had been 26, or within three years from the abuse.

The total upheaval of these cases kinda makes you wonder why he have such a strict statute of limitations for sexual assault victims as a nation in the first place.  

The Not-So-Subtle Association With Religion

According to their official website, the organization’s mission statement is to “prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law”.”

Seems pretty standard (despite implying that you could somehow standardize morals and ethics)  until you get to the oath-

“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.”

While Boy Scouts may claim to be a secular organization, their oath seems pretty misleading. Sure, theoretically a scout could equate God to something else, but it doesn’t seem like the most natural inclination. 

There isn’t anything wrong with having a recreational group associated with religion. However, without full disclosure, this factor feels pretty misleading. 

Requiring a religious oath from children who may or may not have a spiritual connection feels pretty unnecessary from an organization known for its cheesy popcorn. 

In 2015, BSA added a requirement that graduating scouts must explain to their leaders “how you have done your duty to God.” in order to receive their well-earned status. 

It’s worth noting that Girl Scouts removed their requirement for reciting religious-affiliated pledges in 1993.

A Homophobic History

Though Boy Scouts has conveniently reconsidered their policy, there’s no denying the organization previously banned participants based entirely on their sexuality. The organization has a long history of banning openly gay scout members and leaders which shouldn’t be forgotten. 

While the organization ultimately voted to rescind this policy in 2013, there’s no doubt Boy Scouts still has a long way to go in terms of acceptance. 

Following a 30% drop in membership, the organization rebranded to allow transgender boys and girls into their organization in 2018.

It seems Boy Scouts use inclusivity as a political pawn, not as a testament to a genuine change of heart. 

The Future of Boy Scouts

Hopefully, bankruptcy will be a huge wake-up call to the obviously problematic organization. 

While I’ve never been a Boy Scout myself, my time as a Girl Scout was pretty enjoyable and I’d imagine pretty comparable (sans discriminatory policies). Camping and connecting without technology is a rarity for kids of this generation, and I do think recreational groups fill an important void in our developing society. 

However, that is no excuse to blatantly model discrimination. Children learn patterns from the adults they matter most in their lives, and that could very well be a scout leader. 

Bankruptcy for Boy Scouts very well might be a blessing in disguise. 

 

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