The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, with 2.7 million youth members and over 1 million adult volunteers.[1]

There were 2,000 US cases of abuse within the Boy Scouts of America prior to 1994, and one abuse incident was as recent as 2006.[2][3] The high risk of volunteer organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America, has been recognized.[4] As a result, the Boy Scouts of America, the largest US youth organization with 4 million members, created a sex abuse education and prevention program in the 1980s called the Youth Protection program to help address the problem.

Notable cases

Past US abuse cases include:

  • Joe Gibson, a former Scoutmaster in the St. Petersburg, Florida area, was convicted in June 1982 of molesting scouts on camping trips.[5]
  • Lee Pontius, former Daytona Beach, Florida area Scoutmaster, and current Silver Beaver honoree, was convicted multiple times of molesting Boy Scouts, including on a November 1982 camping trip.[6]
  • Martin Turner, a 64-year-old former Boy Scout leader in Texas, pleaded guilty in 2008 to two counts of indecency with a child by contact and one count of attempted indecency with a child by contact. He had abused two children in cases going back up to 40 years.[7]
  • David McDonald Rankin, a former Scoutmaster in College Park, Maryland, was convicted for sexually abusing teenage Scouts between 1984 and 1987. He forced Scouts to have sex with him, once threatening a youth with a knife.[8]
  • Gary Lee Gephart, a former Cub Scout leader in Oceanside, California, was convicted in 1996 for molesting three boys, ages 7 to 12.[9]
  • Howard W. Curtis, a 58-year-old Haverhill, Massachusetts librarian and former Scout leader, pled guilty in May 2008 to two counts of raping a boy in his troop more than two decades ago. The 13-year-old victim was forced to engage in various sexual activities and was videotaped. During the trial, two other Scouts testified that Curtis also had abused them, but the statute of limitations had prohibited prosecution of their cases.[10]
  • James Hiatt, a former Boy Scout leader in Texas, was convicted in May 2008 of nine of 10 counts related to his fondling and sexual contact with a 12-year-old Scout. The abuse took place about 2003 to 2005.[11][12]
  • Brad Stowell confessed to molesting 24 boys while working at Camp Little Lemhi in Blackfoot, Idaho, from 1989 until his arrest in 1997. Authorities working at the camp were warned numerous times during his employment. In 1988, at age 16, Stowell had previously admitted to police that he molested a 6-year-old, which Scout officials were also aware of.[13]
  • Gary Wade Brown, a former Boy Scout Leader in Orem, Utah, in 2009 pled guilty to four counts of sexual abuse of a child and sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree felonies, and one count of lewdness involving a child, a Class A misdemeanor. Seven additional charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement. The abuse involved a 12-year-old boy and took place between 2005 and 2006.[3]
  • Charles Donald Corley, a former Boy Scout volunteer in Birmingham, Alabama, was convicted on two counts of first-degree sodomy and three counts of sexual abuse against three young men in 1995.[14][15]
  • Richard Turley, a former volunteer in California, was convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting an 11-year-old Canadian scout. After 18 months, he was released from a mental institution and went right back to work, beginning his volunteer work at a California scout camp. In 1979, he assaulted three of those scouts. Upon learning this, Boy Scouts of American simply told Turley to return to Canada, not warning Scouts Canada of Turley’s criminal behavior. In 1996, Turley went on to assault four boys, three of which were scouts, in Victoria, British Columbia. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.[16]
  • James Molyneaux, 2004, a former Boy Scout leader and 6th-grade English school teacher in Portville, New York, was arrested in connection to an abuse case of a 13-year-old in July 1997 at a campground owned by the Molyneaux family that was used for scouting activities and another case of an 11-year-old at his home in Portville, NY in September 2000. Although Molyneaux denied the charges, at trial he was found guilty of two counts of first-degree sodomy, two counts of second-degree sodomy, and one count of first-degree sexual abuse. Molyneaux is currently serving 17 1/2 to 23 years with a maximum sentence of 57 years in the Clinton Correctional Facility. The state has denied his appeal [17]

1985 Youth Protection Program

Like most youth-organizations, the BSA has struggled with the problem of sex abuse and how to handle abuse allegations. J.L. Tarr, a Chief Scout Executive in the 1980s, said regarding sexual assault cases against Scout leaders across all 50 states: "That's been an issue since the Boy Scouts began.”[4] Several reports have surfaced over the years regarding incidents of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America to include incidents of repeat offenders.[18][19] There have also been several high profile court cases that resulted in convictions and settlements involving such incidents.[18][19]

In the 1980s, BSA developed its Youth Protection program, a comprehensive program to educate and prevent abuse. A centerpiece of the program is the "Two deep" leadership criterion which dictates that no adult can ever be alone with any members. Before joining, a member must discuss with their parents a pamphlet on sexual abuse. The Youth Protection Plan from the organization is linked to in a CDC report on such programs.[20]

Kenneth Lannings, the FBI agent who helped develop the BSA's Youth Protection Plan, wrote that "A skilled pedophile who can get children into a situation where they must change clothing or stay with him overnight will almost always succeed in seducing them".[21] Some of the traditions, situations and ploys that abusers had turned into conduits for sex were:[4]

  • Campouts
  • Sexually related games
  • Misuse of authority and loyalty
  • Initiation rites
  • Trips alone
  • Sleepovers

To prevent abuse, all of the above activities are now banned or restricted by the BSA's Youth Protection program.

The plan has been criticized for being insufficient-- while organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys and Girls Clubs of America began criminal background checks in the mid-80s, the BSA did not require background checks for its volunteers until more than 20 years later-- in 2008. [22]

1991 Washington Times investigation

In May 1991, the Washington Times published a major five-part investigation entitled “Scouts Honor” on sex abuse in the BSA. Staff from the newspaper had worked for two years preparing the series, reviewing internal and personnel records from the Boy Scouts; court records from more than 20 states; and more than 1,000 newspaper articles; as well as interviewing more than 200 people, including molesters, families of victims, Scout leaders, sex abuse experts and lawyers. The newspaper restricted itself to reported cases of male Scout leaders abusing boy scouts prior to the introduction of its Youth Protection program. In summation, they wrote “The Boy Scouts are a magnet for men who want to have sexual relations with children...Pedophiles join the Scouts for a simple reason: it’s where the boys are.”[4]

The series drew on three sources:

  • Historical “confidential files” (formerly known as the “Ineligible Volunteer Files”) within Scout records, with details on 231 Scout leaders banned from Scouting for sexual misconduct from 1975 through 1984.
  • 50 lawsuits against the Scouts by families of molested boys from around the US.
  • A list from the BSA of more than 350 men banned for sexual misconduct from 1971 to 1986.

The newspaper discovered that 1,151 Scouts reported being abused by their leaders over a 19-year period mostly prior to the implementation of the Youth Protection Plan: they published a detailed list of 416 cases from 1971–1990 where a US Scout leader was arrested or banned from Scouting for sexual abuse of Scouts, adding that experts said the real number of abusers and victims was probably several times higher. The newspaper articles later formed the basis for a book by the main journalist involved, Patrick Boyle: Scout's Honor: Sexual Abuse in America's Most Trusted Institution.

The series, written shortly after the inception of BSA's Youth Protection program, concluded that "After decades of shying away from the problem, the Scouts have created what many child abuse experts call one of the best sex abuse education programs in the country. The program teaches boys, leaders and parents about resisting, recognizing and reporting abuse." [4]

Legal actions

A number of lawsuits have resulted. A study of 50 lawsuits against the Boy Scouts of America showed that from 1986 to 1991 BSA and local councils agreed to pay more than $15 million in damages. According to federal tax returns, BSA payments to one law firm in Miami working on abuse cases were more than one-half million dollars; the BSA insurance reserve, from which the damages are paid, stood at $61.9 million.[4]

The actual payment total, said the Washington Times in 1991, is probably far higher because the Scouts sometimes agree to pay damages only if the payments are kept secret. Keeping damage awards confidential is commonly required by insurers.

In August 2007, the Washington state Supreme Court ordered BSA to hand over documents concerning sexual abuse by Scout leaders. These documents showed that the organization removes about 180 of its leaders each year, although most of these removals have to do with other issues besides child abuse. [23]

2010 Oregon case and the release of files

Timur Dykes is a former Oregon Boy Scout leader who admitted to abusing a 12-year-old boy in the 1980s prior to the implementation of the Youth Protection Plan.[24] In 2010, plaintiff Kerry Lewis, represented by trial lawyer Kelly Clark of Portland, won the jury trial and the largest punitive damages to date ($18.5 million) awarded for sexual molestation in the Boy Scouts.[25] Some observers said the case "could have a snowball effect in much the same way high-profile molestation suits against the Roman Catholic Church had".[26] Patrick Boyle, author of Scout's Honor: Sexual Abuse in America's Most Trusted Institution, was quoted as commenting "Until this case, the Boy Scouts of America had managed to keep these cases largely underwater nationally. All of a sudden, it's gotten blown out of the water and the public knows that the Scouts have had this problem, too -- just like the Catholic Church."[26]

The trial provided a rare opportunity for an American jury to view confidential files held by BSA, although BSA had fought to keep the files secret. They showed BSA knowledge of abuse dated back to the 1920s.[26] Reports said that in the US, the Scouts settled about 60 similar historic cases out of court over recent years.[25]

On October 19, 2012, the Boy Scouts of America were forced to release over 20,000 pages of documentation on 1200 alleged child sexual abuse cases within the organization from between 1965 and 1985.[27] It is alleged that the police and other officials helped cover up abuse "to protect the good name and good works of Scouting."[28] The reports showed incidents where accused abusers were allowed to continue in the Scouts, and in "more than a third" of the cases covered in the documents, information about the allegations were not passed on to police.[28]

It has been alleged that BSA may have helped cover-up the abuse cases. A recently-released letter by a Louisiana BSA executive to the BSA's national personnel division revealed: "This subject and Scouts were not prosecuted to save the name of Scouting." [28] The reports showed incidents where accused abusers were allowed to continue in the Scouts, and in "more than a third" of the cases covered in the documents, information about the allegations were not passed on to police.[28]

As of 2012, the BSA has refused to release those files from after 1985.[29] A Texas judge has ordered the release of the post-1985 files, but the BSA in in the process of appealing to avoid that release. [30]


  1. 2011 Report to the Nation. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved on March 10, 2012.
  2. Outline of Patrick Boyle book Scouts Honor. University of Maryland website.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Former Orem Boy Scout Leader Sentenced", by Janice Peterson, Daily Herald, Provo, Utah, August 18, 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Patrick, Boyle (1991). "Scouts Honor". The Washington Times. 
  5. "Scout Leader Sentenced 15 Years for Molesting", Sarasota Herald Tribune, June 13, 1982.
  6. "Former Scoutmaster Placed on Probation"
  7. "Former Scouts Leader Sentenced for Indecency with a Child", Texas Cable News, December 22, 2008.
  8. "Former Scout Leader Sentenced for Abuse", Associated Press via Lewiston [ME] Journal and Google, February 9, 1988.
  9. "Ex-scout Leader Gets Maximum for Molestations", Los Angeles Times, August 10, 1996.
  10. "Ex Boy Scout Leader Admits to Rape", by Sally Jacobs, Boston Globe, May 8, 2008.
  11. "Scout Leader Sentenced to 60 Years for Child Sex Assault", KSAT-TV, San Antonio, May 30, 2008.
  12. "Ex Scout Leader Guilty of Sex Assault", Express News, May 29, 2008.
  13. Zuckerman, Peter. Scout's Honor. Idaho Falls Post Register. Retrieved on 2012.
  14. "Youth Leader Pleads Guilty to Sex Abuse and Sodomy", The Birmingham News, August 29, 2005.
  15. "30 is 30, An advocacy site for victims of Charles Donald Corley"
  16. "Scout leaders had concern about pedophile's behaviour before crimes revealed", The Gazette, October 28, 2011.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Barrick, Frances (June 26, 2012). Pain continues for family of boy abused by scout leader. Retrieved on August 10, 2012.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Boy Scout files reveal repeat child abuse by sexual predators. Retrieved on August 10, 2012.
  20. Janet Saul and Natalie C. Audage (2007). Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-serving Organizations: Getting Started on Policies and Procedures (PDF) 1–55. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved on November 18, 2010.
  21. Kenneth V. Lanning, Child Sex Rings: A Behavioral Analysis, 1987.
  22. [1]
  23. "Boy Scouts' secret "degenerate" files revealed". London: Yahoo news / Planet Out. Retrieved 2007-10-02. 
  24. "Files Logging Scout Abuse Are a Focus in Civil Trial", by William Yardley, March 17, 2010, NY Times.
  25. 25.0 25.1 "Sexual abuse scandal rocks Boy Scouts of America after $18.5m payout: Organisation accused of cover-up as it seeks to keep thousands of 'perversion files' secret", by Chris McGreal,, 29 April 2010 20.02 BST. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 'The Oregonian', 13 April 2010
  27. Goodale, Gloria. (October 19, 2012) "Boy Scouts child abuse files: Can the organization withstand their release?" MinnPost. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 "Locals helped Boy Scouts cover up pedophilia" The Charleston Gazette. October 19, 2012. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
  29. [2]
  30. [3]
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