In what’s been characterized by some as an attempt to shield itself from the roughly 300 active sexual abuse cases it’s currently facing, the Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday.
And while the total number of abuse cases in Utah is unclear, the bankruptcy filing could have big implications for past and future scouts in the state.
Utah once had some of the highest enrollment in the country because of the Scouts’ historic connection to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Mark Griffin, scouting executive of the Great Salt Lake Council, estimated about half of the state’s scouts were church members, compared to about one-in-ten elsewhere in the country.
The Church officially parted ways with the youth organization this year after the organization announced it would allow girls to join. But Portland-based attorney Stephen Crew said that because of that historically high enrollment there are likely many victims here.
Crew said his firm is representing close to 200 victims across the country, with at least three in Utah. The former Utah scouts are men older than 40, he said, though the clients range in age from 14 to 70 years old.
There have also been 86 recorded perpetrators in Utah over the years, according to the Boy Scouts’-own perversion files, a once-secret list of troop leaders and volunteers accused of abuse. Each file represents one perpetrator who could have had up to dozens of victims, Crew said, though many of them have been destroyed.
“An awful lot of the Boy Scouts secrets have come out already but I think through this [bankruptcy] process, they’ll be required to be even more transparent,” Crew said.
The organization said in a statement it believes it “has a social and moral responsibility to equitably compensate all victims who were abused during their time in Scouting,” adding that it’s using the Chapter 11 process to create a trust to do so.
Crew said one of the many unknowns right now is how much cash would be on the table for victims. The organization’s most recent tax filings show assets totaling $1.4 billion in 2018, in addition to $3.3 billion held by local councils — separate legal entities that operate local troops.
While the organization said its local councils will not be affected, Crew said there is still a question of whether or not they would contribute to a victim fund, and how much will go to Utah victims.
Jon Reed is a reporter for KUER. Follow him on Twitter @reedathonjon