Opinion

Scout leaders should be trustworthy, too

While the Boy Scouts of America was spending time and resources to justify its exclusion of gays, it appears the organization has been ignoring a much bigger and more serious problem.

In a news story last week, it was revealed that “men suspected of molestation allegedly continued to abuse Scouts, despite a blacklist meant to protect boys from sexual predators,” according to internal BSA documents reviewed and reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Describing an indefensible scenario not unlike the child abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church, the Times said the documents showed suspected sexual predators stayed within the Boy Scouts even after BSA officials were informed of the allegations.

Just as some abusing Catholic priests moved from parish to parish, these predators apparently moved from one Scout troop to another.

In one particularly egregious case, a scoutmaster was convicted of sexual assault but allowed to rejoin other troops in neighboring states. The predator later confessed to more than 100 counts of molesting young boys, including at least one other Scout, and is currently serving a 100-year sentence.

The Times report raises questions about the Boy Scouts’ commitment to the protection of children under its care, and the legacy of continuing abuse it might have created.

Last week, law enforcement officers in several nations unraveled an international child pornography network. The arrest of 43 men and discovery of more than 140 victims – including babies and toddlers – began with a man named Robert Diduca, who sent child porn images to an undercover officer.

Diduca’s lawyer said a Boy Scout leader abused his client as a child, presumably scarring him for life and perhaps triggering his criminal activity.

When organizations like the Catholic church, Penn State University or the Boy Scouts don’t act swiftly and decisively to expose criminal activity under their own roof, the abuse expands further afield, multiplying the number of lives potentially ruined.

Even as the charges of sexual misconduct were being reported last week, Eagle Scouts all across America were returning their medals in protest of the Boy Scouts’ exclusion policy. But with religious organizations sponsoring about 70 percent of the Boy Scouts’ worldwide units, it’s unlikely either event will change the BSA’s policy.

Still, it’s worth hoping that a once-venerable organization can learn from its mistakes, and shift its focus to protecting all young boys, rather than excluding some.

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