The Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest and oldest youth organizations in the United States. More than 4 and half million children take part in its programs. Founded in 1910 the original stated purpose of the Scouts was to teach boys quote patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values.
But the foundation of this trusted service organizations could be cracked in the coming weeks. A judge has ordered the Boy Scouts of America to turn over thousands of documents related to allegations of sexual abuse. The order comes from a California court where a lawsuit alleges that scout troop leader Al Steven Stein sexually molested a 13 year old boy five years ago.
Dr. Richard Gartner is clinical psycho-analyst who has treated men who were abused as boys by scout members they trusted. He has written several books on the subject including his latest called Beyond Betrayal.
The lawsuit claims allegations of sexual abuse by adult leaders and counselors across the country have been a closely guarded secret. It claims the Boys Scouts rarely pass on the criminal accusations to police but they do record the incidents into so called “ineligible volunteer files”
Lawyers in the California case are asking for more than five thousand files that date back some 20 years. The Boy Scouts of America have resisted previous attempts to get these documents citing privacy laws and concerns about the risk of being sued by men who may have been falsely accused. Nevertheless, the court has ordered those files be turned over by February 24th after the names of the victims have been removed.
The Boy Scouts of America says the existence of the files is not an admission of condoning abuse acts or covering them up. A spokesman for the group released a statement which said in part "These files exist solely to keep out individuals whose actions are inconsistent with the standards of Scouting, and Scouts are safer because of them," So far the judge in the case has said the files are just for the court to see but Dr. Richard Gardner says making the documents public could move hundreds if not thousands of victims to come forward with their stories and get help.
The Santa Barbara case is the latest in a string that have shaken the reputation of the Boy Scouts long seen as a completely positive organization.Two years ago a group of 6 men won more than 18 million dollars in a lawsuit brought against the Boy Scouts. The organization, like the Catholic Church, usually settled these claims out of court with victims who were then bound by confidentiality clause that kept them from going public with their stories.