A searchable online file of hundreds of men who volunteered decades ago as Scout leaders and were suspected of sexual abuse was posted Thursday by an Oregon law firm.
The move is a blow to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which for more than 100 years has sought to raise boys into men of good character and citizenship through moral male leadership.
The organization's closely guarded "ineligible volunteer" files show that — at least from 1959 to 1985 — more than a few of the 1,247 men suspected of child abuse were not brought to justice or even kicked out of the Scouts.
"This subject and Scouts were not prosecuted to save the name of Scouting," a Louisiana Scouting executive wrote to higher-ups in 1965. The "subject," a 31-year-old Scoutmaster, had just admitted to law enforcement officials that he had sexually abused three brothers more than once, said the Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the 14,500-page file a few weeks ago.
In another case, in 1972, a Pennsylvania Scouting executive urged BSA headquarters to drop the case against a suspected abuser because he was undergoing professional treatment. "If it don't stink, don't stir it," the local executive wrote, according to the AP.
"You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children," said attorney Kelly Clark, whose law firm, O'Donnell, Clark and Crew, released the file online Thursday after receiving permission from the Oregon Supreme Court.
Mr. Clark, who held a news conference Thursday in Portland, Ore., said the files could have involved 6,000 to 24,000 boys.
The files are redacted to omit names of victims and whistleblowers, but they identify suspected abusers and offer background details on how and why their profiles were created.
The materials, located at kellyclarkattorney.com, are sortable by name, year, city and state. A spreadsheet lists 56 men from the Washington metro area — 30 from Maryland, 24 from Virginia and two from the District of Columbia. Forty-six of the 56 abuses were recorded before 1980.
Wayne Perry, national president of BSA, said in a video that the files often did their job to block pedophiles from the organization. "It is a fact that dangerous individuals have been prevented from joining Scouting because of the barrier created by these files," he said.
"Unfortunately," Mr. Perry said, "there have still been instances when people abused their positions in Scouting to hurt children and our efforts to protect them or respond were insufficient. For that, we are deeply sorry. We extend our sympathies to any and all victims."
The BSA has stepped up its youth-protection efforts over the years and now requires all volunteers to undergo background checks, screening and youth-protection training. Any suspicions of abuse must be reported to law enforcement, and the person accused must be removed immediately as a Scout leader, he said.
Also, a "two-deep" policy is in place, which means there always must be two adults present at all activities. "No youth should ever be alone with a Scout leader," Mr. Perry said.
The release of the files stemmed from a lawsuit Mr. Clark filed in 2007 against BSA for failing to protect Kerry Lewis from assistant Scoutmaster Timur Dykes in the 1980s.
A jury awarded Mr. Lewis $18.5 million in damages. Mr. Dykes, who went to prison for child molesting, is living in Oregon as a registered sex offender.
The BSA fought to keep its files confidential, but a judge ruled that they could be released, and in June, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld that ruling.
A similar court fight is occurring in Texas regarding "ineligible volunteer" files from 1985 to 2010.
A local Portland news station, KING5.com, obtained 50 "perversion" files from the BSA from 1974 to 1991. It also found that local leaders were more apt to remove a suspected abuser quietly than report him to authorities.
In 1991, The Washington Times ran an award-winning five-part series, "Scout's Honor," on sex abuse in the BSA using computer files. At least 1,151 Scouts reported abuse by a leader over the past 19 years, "making sex abuse more common in Scouting than accidental deaths and serious injuries combined," wrote Patrick Boyle, a former staff member at The Washington Times.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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