Yesterday’s release of previously confidential files on child sexual abuse perpetrators maintained by the Boy Scouts of America from 1959 to 1985 are raising new questions about the relationship between the LDS Church and the BSA. Since 1918, the Church has partnered with the BSA, hosting scout troops in most of its United States congregations. (The New York Times profiled the LDS-BSA relationship—including the experience of gay LDS Boy Scouts impacted by BSA’s LGBT discrimination policies—this week.)
Today, a whopping 34% of Boy Scouts troops nationwide are co-sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But sources who have scrutinized the BSA’s so-called “perversion files” report that fewer than 2% of the cases documented therein are connected with Mormons. It is believed that LDS Church may have handled child abuse cases internally rather than reporting them to BSA officials.
The LDS Church confronted patterns of child sexual abuse within its own ranks in the 1990s after several high-profile child sexual abuse cases resulted in multimillion dollar payouts to victims and their families. The Mormon Alliance, a grassroots Mormon organization that monitored abuse within the Church, published a study documenting negligence on the part of local members and leaders in addressing abuse—and even the excommunication of some victims and accusers. In 1995, the Church established stronger guidelines and new protocols for reporting abuse, including a 1-800 number for local clergy.