Almost 100,000 sexual abuse claims filed against US Boy Scouts, eclipsing accusations against Catholic Church

Josie Ensor
·2 min read
The US flag is carried by Boy Scouts during a parade  - AFP
The US flag is carried by Boy Scouts during a parade - AFP

Some 95,000 sexual abuse claims have been filed against the Boy Scouts of America ahead of the group's bankruptcy case, revealing the scale of alleged abuse committed over decades by scout leaders in the US.

"It's by far the largest sexual abuse scandal in the US," Paul Mones, a lawyer who has been working on Boy Scouts cases for nearly two decades. 

He added that scouting offered a "perfect petri dish" for pedophiles: "Boys have taken an oath of loyalty, they are away from their parents, in the wilderness."

The group, founded in 1910, has 2.2 million members between the ages of five and 21. It has said that some 130 million Americans have gone through its programs over the years, including the likes of John F. Kennedy, the astronaut Neil Armstrong.

The claims dwarf the 11,000 made against the Catholic Church in the US in recent years.

A boy looks over a Boy Scout-themed Norman Rockwell exhibition at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah - AP
A boy looks over a Boy Scout-themed Norman Rockwell exhibition at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah - AP

Rocked by accusations of sexual abuse, the BSA, which was valued at more than $1bn (£755m), filed for bankruptcy in February in an effort to block settlement claims from hitting the organisation directly and instead funneled them to a compensation fund.

The organisation "will have to sell some of their properties," Mr Mones said, adding it was a "very complicated" process that could last one or two years.

In 2010, he won $20 million for a former Boy Scout abused by his leader.

Revelations of misconduct in US scouting circles came to widespread attention in 2012 when the Los Angeles Times published internal documents spelling out details of decades of sexual abuse.

Some 5,000 "perversion files" were uncovered, identifying about as many alleged culprits among scout leadership, including scout masters and troop leaders.

"We are devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward," the scouting organisation said in a statement. "We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain.”