The Boy Scouts of America is facing a complex bankruptcy case that has led to heightened tension between it and the major religious groups that support its thousands of scout units. The issue is the fear of the churches that a settlement could result in many churches being left unprotected, while protecting the BSA against future sex-abuse lawsuits.
In an attempt to stop individual lawsuits and provide a large compensation fund for thousands who claim they were molested by their leaders as children, the Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2020. The national organization had estimated that it could face 5,000 cases at the time; now it faces 82,500.
The BSA proposed an $850million deal in July that would prohibit further lawsuits against the organization and its local councils. It did not include the over 40,000 organizations with charters with BSA to sponsor Scout units. This includes many churches of major religious denominations, who are questioning their future participation in scouting.
The United Methodist Church, which claims that up to 5,000 U.S. congregations may be subject to future lawsuits, recently advised these churches to not extend their charters with BSA beyond this year. These congregations are “disappointed” and “very concerned” about not being included in the July agreement, according to UMC.
Everett Cygal is a lawyer representing Catholic churches that has been following the case. He said it was unfair that the Catholic Churches now face liability because of the misconduct of Boy Scout troop leaders, who often had no connection with the parish.
Cygal stated to The Associated Press that only chartered organizations can deliver scouting. “It would be foolish not to protect the people they absolutely must to ensure that scouting remains viable in the future.
Officials from several other denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, have advised their churches that they should hire their own legal counsel if there is sex-abuse litigation.
According to the Presbyterian Church, its national leadership cannot act for member churches as they are independent corporations. The Evangelical Lutheran Church leadership also stated that its congregations are legally on their own and can decide for themselves whether they want to continue any relationship or not with the BSA.
The Lutheran church warned that the congregation could not rely on the BSA or local council to defend it because of bankruptcy. “The congregation must ensure that they have sufficient insurance and that their own insurance covers them.”