Monday, October 22, 2012

All The Young Dudes: The Boy Scouts Release Their "Perversion Files"

The Oregon Supreme Court ordered the Boy Scouts to release their "perversion files" - an internal system the Scouts set up to keep known child molestors out of the organization - to the world. No doubt hoping to turn this into Catholic Church, Mach 2, the news media has been hyping the breach of trust:
Again and again, decade after decade, an array of authorities — police chiefs, prosecutors, pastors and local Boy Scout leaders among them — quietly shielded scoutmasters and others accused of molesting children, a newly opened trove of confidential papers shows. 
At the time, those authorities justified their actions as necessary to protect the good name and good works of Scouting, a pillar of 20th century America. But as detailed in 14,500 pages of secret "perversion files" released Thursday by order of the Oregon Supreme Court, their maneuvers allowed sexual predators to go free while victims suffered in silence. 
The files are a window on a much larger collection of documents the Boy Scouts of America began collecting soon after their founding in 1910. The files, kept at Boy Scout headquarters in Texas, consist of memos from local and national Scout executives, handwritten letters from victims and their parents and newspaper clippings about legal cases. The files contain details about proven molesters, but also unsubstantiated allegations. 
The allegations stretch across the country and to military bases overseas, from a small town in the Adirondacks to downtown Los Angeles. 
At the news conference Thursday, Portland attorney Kelly Clark blasted the Boy Scouts for their continuing legal battles to try to keep the full trove of files secret. 
"You do not keep secrets hidden about dangers to children," said Clark, who in 2010 won a landmark lawsuit against the Boy Scouts on behalf of a plaintiff who was molested by an assistant scoutmaster in the 1980s. 
Clark's colleague, attorney Paul Mones, said the files "show how pedophiles operate, how child molesters infiltrate youth organizations." 
"These guys (abusers) basically were in a candy store, the way they thought about it," Mones said.
No one's going to disagree that molesting boys is disgusting behavior. Certainly, the Scouts were demonstrably concerned and actively worked to keep perverts away from kids. There's a lot of querelous plaints about how the Scouts failed to go to the police, and they better watch out lawsuits now. Well, what were they supposed to do? Let the guys keep working with kids while the police did a (perhaps half-assed) investigation, or get them out of there ASAP? The Scouts clearly chose the latter.

But, you know what's funny? In all of this perversion file discussion, we haven't heard much talk about the Scouts' other policy that has brought opprobrium down upon it: the policy of keeping gays out of the Scouts. Doesn't anyone now think that the Scouts actually have a rational reason to work actively to exclude gays from the Scouts? Wouldn't it stand to reason that at least some gay men might try to get into the Scouts so they can have ready access to young males? There's been a whiny controversy here in the Bay Area over a 17 year old Scout who wrote a letter to the organization announcing that he was gay. The Scouts, not surprisingly, have refused to make him an Eagle Scout, and now all the beautiful people are weeping over his fate. Well, if you were a parent of a 10 or 11 year old, would you want a gay 17 year old taking your son on a camping trip? Would you still want to after searching the perversion file data base? It's crazy. No one would expect a straight man to lead a Girl Scout troupe, but somehow having gay men as Scout Masters should be a worry free endeavor?

People love to bemoan the loss of trust in yet another American institution, but what's really happening is an American institution is being attacked from both sides: trial lawyers are seeking to revive decades-old legal claims for sexual molestation while gay rights activists are seeking to infiltrate the Scouts with the sort of people who were doing the molesting in the first place. It's crazy, literally crazy, but the Scouts are not the crazy ones.

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