Starting in 2020, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will discontinue its partnership with the Boy Scouts of America and remove nearly 430,000 kids from the renowned organization. As the BSA faces increasing numbers of child sex abuse lawsuits from ex-Boy Scouts, the withdrawal of the Mormon Church and the financial backing they provide may push the youth organization's decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
For nearly a century the Utah-based religion sponsored Boy Scout troops and required or strongly encouraged for LDS boys to join the Scouts. In fact, Mormon bishops often headed up troops as Scoutmasters, supplying both leadership and volunteer positions in the BSA.
However, elders in the Church of Christ decided earlier this year to part ways with the Boy Scouts after expressing disapproval of developments in BSA membership openings. The youth organization recently opened their membership to gay members and leaders, girls, and transgender Scouts, which goes against the church’s values that same-sex relations is sinful.
“The reality there is we didn’t really leave them; they kind of left us,” stated M. Russell Ballard, a high-ranking leader in the Mormon Church. The Boy Scouts expressed disapproval with Ballard’s remark, saying they went to great lengths to make sure the Mormon Church was accommodated within the Scouts and let Church officials edit the language that opened up BSA membership to gay troop members and leaders.
To replace the loss of Scouting programs, the Church of Christ decided to create a similar youth program that primarily focuses on spiritual development, but weaves in components of the Boy Scouts like camping and outdoor activities. Their program, unlike the Boy Scouts of America, which is limited to the United States, will reach Mormon members worldwide.
With the removal of both children and adults from Scouting programs, TIME indicates Boy Scout youth membership will drop about 18% compared to last year’s already drastically low membership numbers. At the height of the organization, the BSA boasted of having over 4 million boys in Scouting programs. However, with the removal of the Mormon Church, that number will decrease by over 50%.
Scouting Abuse Litigation and Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Currently the Boy Scouts of America faces hundreds of child sex abuse lawsuits, former Scouts alleging they were molested as children by Scoutmasters and Scouting volunteers. This Scouting abuse litigation is expected to drastically impact the BSA’s financial status, especially as recent statute of limitations amendments have made it easier for sexual abuse victims to pursue justice against their abusers in civil court. Arizona, California, New Jersey, and New York have all altered their civil SOLs on child sex abuse and many have opened look back windows that eliminate the statute of limitations for a marked period of time.
While the BSA refuses to say how the removal of the Mormon Church will impact the Scout’s finances, they recently upped their membership fees by nearly 50% and mortgaged a historic Scouting campground to bolster their finances during this litigation.
Many believe that the withdrawal of the Mormon Church adds additional fuel to the fire for the BSA to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which would significantly limit the amount of time Scouting abuse survivors have to file lawsuits against the organization.
To read TIME’s full article, click here.