Scouts Allegedly Covered Up Sexual Abuse, LGBT Groups Criticize Anti-Gay Policy
Just days after officials from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced they would uphold a policy that bans gay men and lesbians from joining the organization, a San Diego news station reported the BSA has "confidential files" that allege sexual abuse occurred within the group.
The 10News I-Team got hold of documents that claim BSA officials from San Diego did not report at least 35 sexual abuse incidents that occurred within the organization. Reporter Mitch Blacher asked Phyllis Shess, a former San Diego prosecutor, if she had heard about the cases of abuse from the BSA.
"Did the Boy Scouts of America help you in anyway?" Blacher asked. "Did they alert that this was happening?"
"They didn't alert me," Shess said.
"Did they alert the police?" Blacher asked.
"Law enforcement was alerted by a couple of the boys' parents," she said.
BSA's CEO Bob Mazzuca explained why these files have been sealed away from public viewing.
"We have kept these files confidential because we believe victims deserve protection and that confidentiality encourages prompt reporting of questionable behavior," he said. "It removes the fear of retribution and ensures victims and their families, the privacy they deserve.
"We believe perpetrators of abuse should be punished to the fullest extent of the law," Mazzuca said. "Confidentiality encourages prompt reporting of questionable behavior."
A spokesman for the BSA told the news station their policy requires everyone "involved in scouting to report to local authorities any good faith suspicion or belief that any child is or has been physically or sexually abused."
Despite the organization's defense many believe officials were more concerned with protecting certain individuals instead of scouts.
"Certainly there is pressure on scout executives, as I understand it, to make sure membership levels stay up," Santa Barbara lawyer Tim Hale told 10News I-Team. "Clearly, if an organization is talking openly about the fact that children are being sexually abused within it that at least initially could have a negative impact on membership levels."
Earlier this week the BSA came under heavy criticism when officials announced that the organization would uphold a policy that prohibits gay men and lesbians from joining the group. A number of LGBT rights groups and advocates issued statements condemning the decision:
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign:
"This is a missed opportunity of colossal proportions. With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued. These adults could have taught the next generation of leaders the value of respect, yet they've chosen to teach division and intolerance."
Herndon Graddick, president of GLAAD:
"With organizations including the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Boys & Girls Club and the U.S. military allowing gay Americans to participate, the Boy Scouts of America need to find a way to treat all children and their parents fairly," said Graddick in a prepared statement.
"Until this ban is lifted, the Scouts are putting parents in a situation where they have to explain to their children why some scouts and hard-working scout leaders are being turned away simply because of who they are. It's unfair policies like this that contribute to a climate of bullying in our schools and communities. Since when is that a value worth teaching young adults?"
Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
"Clinging to a policy of exclusion and intolerance is hardly a good lesson for our young people. Once again, officials of the Boy Scouts of America have turned their backs on a chance to demonstrate fairness, exercise sound judgment, and serve as a role model for valuing others, free of bias and prejudice. This is deeply disappointing. Discrimination is never the right policy, period."
Matt Every, president of PFLAG:
"By not allowing gays and lesbians into the program, as leaders and as scouts, this excludes that group from learning a lot of good things about being good citizens and treating others with care."
Right-wing group, however, cheered the decision:
Family Research Council:
"They deserve a major pat on the back. They have defied the winds of political correctness and have said 'no' to a culture that wants us to accept as normative a pattern of sexual behavior which clearly violates God's intended design for men and women."
Concerned Women For America:
CWA "strongly supports the rights of the Boy Scouts of America to set policy for their own organization. They've made the determination that it's best for their organization and for the kids involved to exclude homosexual leaders, and we believe they have both the legal right and the moral right to make that decision."