The Boy Scouts of America have been ethically bankrupt for years

I have mixed feelings about it — my son Connlann was active in Boy Scouts for years, and I think he had great experiences there. I was on a couple of camping trips with him and the other boys, and I think they benefitted from a good scout leader who was tolerant and undogmatic…but you couldn’t trust that every scout leader was that way, and higher-ups were all conservative jackholes who believed that antiquated rules and judgments were a necessary part of being a boy growing up.

So now the organization is declaring itself financially bankrupt, admitting the reality. I’m not going to shed any tears over it, since they wallowed in religious and paramilitary bullshit for so long and refused to change. Let them die and better organizations rise.


  1. Miserable Git Says says

    I’m torn here because I’ve been involved in Scouting and know that some groups can be awesome places where kids grow and achieve things that no one would have expected of them. I’ve also briefly been involved in troops that bored the bejeezus out of me and I moved on.
    But lableing a whole organization of thousands of volunteers so negatively is poor. Your disparagement is like saying Trinity University is rubbish, all universities should be closed and something better replace them.
    Its complex, the leadership failed miserably, just like so many leaderships. Let them rebuild as something better

  2. Artor says

    The BSA leadership is entrenched and is not likely to change. They had a moral decision to make, and they chose, quite deliberately, to protect pedophiles in their ranks and feed them more vulnerable children to victimize. Perhaps the good people from local chapters can build something new from the ashes, but the organization as a whole should be burned to the ground.

  3. microraptor says

    Most of my memories of being in the scouts as a kid involve the fact that the entire rest of the troop tended to bully me at school and the scout master liking to talk about his experiences in the Vietnam War of killing brown people and desecrating their corpses for fun.

  4. Matt G says

    My father, brother and I all had good experiences. My troop was pretty progressive, but I was disappointed in how conservative the council became over the years. My atheism was never an issue.

  5. Forrest Phelps says

    @ Miserable Git Says: No one denies that there are plenty of good people involved in Scouts. There were plenty of good people caught up all kinds of bad organizations throughout history. PZ is not labelling the thousands of good volunteers in any way. He is merely stating the obvious: the big-wigs knew about problems for years and actively did everything they could to cover the problems up in an effort to ensure the cash-cow they were milking would continue to grow. The worst part of stories like these are the children who were abused. But the second worst part is the way people who enabled them walk away scot free. And those that will are not only going to avoid prosecution, but also probably have golden parachutes set up so this bankruptcy won’t hurt them at all. And believe me, they are the ones who would tell you “we are the Boy Scouts”. In private of course. In public, they say the volunteers are what make scouting work. Gets them more contributions that way.

    The Boy Scouts paid leadership has been morally bankrupt for decades. I know someone who has worked for the organization on the sales-side for over twenty years, and the way they treat their employees would be illegal if we lived in a just society. They expect employees to clock out at their 8-hour mark, but stay until the closing tasks are completed no matter how long it takes, and not put in for any overtime. Just one example.

    As for myself, in a twist of irony, when I took over as Scoutmaster for my son’s troop, the minister of our sponsoring organization had some doubts about me since I was honest and told him I was an atheist. I promised to follow the Scout guidelines, which includes the bit about devotion to God. So I started having a “moment of silence” before each meal and explained to the boys about some would pray to their god, some of different faiths would pray to their different god, and some who didn’t believe in a god might just say a silent thank you to those who prepared the food. What was funny was the number of parents who told me the previous Scoutmaster never said a prayer before meals. And he was a self-proclaimed devout christian.

  6. says

    It’s called “command responsibility.” When command becomes corrupt and disgraces the unit permanently, that unit is ordinarily disbanded and the commanders punished… even when some of the members of the unit desperately tried to stop the cause of the disgrace. There’s a darned good reason that the US Army seldom acknowledges the very existence of the 20th Infantry Regiment any longer; it’s thanks to an “episode” on 16 March 1968 involving Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. And that’s just an objectively verifiable, pretty-well-irrefutable-if-you-pretend-to-any-civilization example; there are lots of others (like renaming all “BP” gas stations in the US “Arco” after a mishap in the Gulf of Mexico involving a British Petroleum oil platform a few years back… that is still generating new claims for environmental damage and immense attorneys’ fees).

    Part of the price of “branding” is that sometimes the bad part of a brand goes along with the good. If you choose to accentuate group/tribal identification, that’s a logical corollary. Of course, “logic” and “Scouting” have never gone all that well together… nor have “wilderness survival skills” and “ideological indoctrination”…

  7. Buzz Parsec says

    @jaws: There’s a BP gas station about a mile from my home. BP owned Arco at the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster (2010), but has since sold it. At least locally, no BP stations got renamed “Arco” after the oil spill. Maybe some of them got transferred to Arco at the time BP sold it to another holding company in 2013, but certainly not all of them. Arco is now owned by Marathon Oil and mostly in the Southwest,

  8. daemonios says

    @1 Miserable Git Says: passing judgment on an entire organization is justified if the organization has failed in its duties, namely the duties of care towards children. Denouncing an organization does not mean you’re accusing individual members, but at the very least those at the top are certainly to blame. Your argument seems to boil down to the “not all x” trope. Not all cops are racist, why all the fuss with Black Lives Matter, right?

  9. says

    Apparently I was very insistent on joining BFA as a Weeb Scout as a child, but I remember very little about the experience, namely the that my first Scoutmaster allowed us to read her son’s Playboy magazines; I was too young to enjoy them but old enough to know not to tell my parents.

  10. devnll says

    I was an Eagle Scout, and had a fantastic experience in scouting. Great troop, highly-focused on backpacking, the boys doing all of the leadership, and staying areligious. Has had a lot of positive long-reaching effects on my life. I have no problem with the BSA dying. Most of the other troops we ever came in contact with were based around churches, and the BSA links back to Christianity always irked me, but that’s not my reason for saying so. The real reason is simply that the best troops were the best because of local leadership and local activities, and we the boys got very little value out of the national organization. Uniforms and militaristic marching when we would rather have been learning skills. We were upsold to go to National Jamborees when we would rather have been backpacking. The only thing we really got from the BSA was new prospective members coming to check us out through name-recognition, and there’s no reason why that couldn’t be replaced by a series of local organizations.

  11. says

    Since we could all use some cheering up after all this, I’m sure: nobody has mentioned that the Girl Scouts not only don’t have this problem but have been better than the Boy Scouts more or less since their founding. Not too long after they came into existence, black girls started joining and some troops refused to accept them. The exclusionist side decided to appeal to the founder, Juliette Gordon Low, for a definitive decision on the question. Juliette Gordon Low was known to have made racist statements in the past, so this was believed to be a trump card for their side — but she nevertheless came out and said that membership in the girl scouts should be open to everyone, regardless of race, and that there should be no favoritism based on skin color, and that has been the precedent they’ve followed.

    So… uh… you can buy those cookies, I guess?

  12. Rieux says

    Hey, wait: BSA is not dead, and possibly not even (at least in corporate-survival terms) dying. They’ve entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which does not necessarily, and often does not at all, end with the dissolution of the organization. Instead, Chapter 11 permits an organization to rearrange its debts, sometimes defaulting on some of them, and then emerge in a more solvent state. Dissolution will probably only happen if a reorganization cannot be worked out with the bankruptcy court.

    No one can write BSA’s epitaph yet. My strong suspicion is that it will survive, and I don’t relish saying that.

  13. methuseus says

    As @Rieuxv said, this is literally only to protect the money that BSA has “so local chapters do not suffer from lawsuits assumed at the parent organization”.

    They are planning on stopping up a trust fund from which all arbitrated cases will be paid, since the BSA won’t have any assets that can be stuffed by court case (at least that’s what the article I read started).

  14. says

    @8: I was going on both observation in the Midwest (all stations changed within a matter of two months after DH) and public statements to securities analysts at the time of the Marathon transaction (2012? I may be off a couple of years). So I was probably overinclusive.

  15. publicola says

    My son and I were lucky to have been involved in a good troop for his 12 years in scouting. I went on a lot of camping trips, participated in activities like selling popcorn, helping on community projects and serving on the troop committee. We were fortunate in that we had a group of good, dedicated leaders who steered the boys in the right direction. My son got his Eagle Scout, and it is a source of great pride for him as it is for all the boys who have achieved it. I am sad and hurt for all the kids whose lives have been damaged. I hope that BSA cleans up its act so that, in the future, boys can enjoy and benefit from the promise of Lord Baden-Powell’s vision.