Thoughts on the Boy Scout abuse case

Rick Johnson
Better Dads Ministry

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is an admirable organization who’s mission is to help train boys to become men of character and productive citizens. For nearly a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes – and, through nearly a century of experience, knows – that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.

Recently the BSA was sued by a former scout who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the early 1980s.  That man was convicted of molesting several scouts and served time in prison. The jury of the trial recently returned a verdict in favor of the plaintive holding BSA liable for their volunteer’s actions. Below is the BSA’s response to the trial decision:

“We are gravely disappointed with the verdict.  We believe that the allegations made against our youth protection efforts are not valid. We intend to appeal.
We are saddened by what happened to the plaintiff. The actions of the man who committed these crimes do not represent the values and ideals of the Boy Scouts of America.

The safety of the young people currently in the Scouting program has never been in question during these legal proceedings.  The case focused on a discussion about what society and the BSA knew about child abuse approximately three decades ago.  This is a long standing societal issue that every youth serving organization must address.  Based on the standard of care of that time, the BSA believes it acted responsibly and that the evidence presented during the trial does not justify the verdict.

The safety of our youth members and participants is our highest priority. Throughout the decades, we have been on the forefront of training our leaders and youth in recognizing and preventing abuse through our comprehensive Youth Protection training.”

The trial has moved to a second phase.  Upon its completion, we will be allowed to post additional information here.

The following article is a letter I recently received and my brief response to his concerns.  I hope it helps others who may be struggling with the same issue.


Hello Rick:
I remember reading in your Better Dads Stronger Sons book that you were involved with Boy Scouts. I saw this article today and started really thinking about my boys involvement with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

“Secret files” on pedophiles that they didn’t want to give up! My oldest is about to become a boy scout and start to go on camping activities without Dad there. I am really thinking twice about letting him be involved with this based upon this article.

From the perspective of another Christian interested in being a better Dad and getting the boys into something the promotes masculinity and leadership qualities, what is your perspective on this?  Truly unsettling….
Take care and God bless you and your ministry,

Hi T,
I am not involved in the Boy Scouts other than having my son go through the organization up to Eagle Scout.  My opinion is that the Scouts are an outstanding organization that has been under attack for many years by segments of our culture who are threatened by healthy masculinity.  I do not know the particulars about this specific case (as I was not in the court room) but I suspect this was an isolated incident like happens within any other organization.  I doubt seriously there were secret files on pedophiles within the organization–at least not in the way it is being portrayed in the media.  As an example, an organization such as Better Dads could have files on past, present, or denied volunteers that we did not want involved with the work we do–whether the issue were pedophilia or something else.  We would want to maintain those files and not let them be released to the public for a variety of reasons not the least of which would be legal liability.  The venue of the trial was also held in uber-liberal Portland, Oregon, which may have been an intentional strategy.  To my knowledge in all the years the BSA have been in existence this is the only court case like this, although it’s possible there may have been others that I’m not aware of.

My thoughts are that parents need to check out and be involved in ANY organization their children become involved with.  Clearly people who abuse children target those with uninvolved parents as easier targets.  Do organizations like schools, Boy Scouts, churches, etc. that work with children get targeted by pedophiles–absolutely.  Have boys been abused by leaders in Scouts before? I think we can safely conclude they have, just as they have in every other segment of society.  Is that acceptable–no.  But it does not mean we throw the “baby out with the bathwater” so to speak.  If we did that we would have shut down all public schools, sports programs, and church youth groups a long time ago.  It does mean that we need to help fix the system so that it does not happen again.

Lastly, it is my understanding that not only do the Boy Scouts allow fathers to go on any campout they want, they would be estatic to have as many fathers as possible attend.  The best defense against any predator is for you to be involved, so I encourage you to go along on the campouts with your son.  Its a great way to bond with him.  If you’d like to discuss this further I would be very happy to give you whatever insight I can.  I appreciate your concern and applaud you for looking into a number of sources for information and insight.  Your son is lucky to have a father that cares.  Blessings,


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