Mrs. Cater Thompson, Conference Chancellor, and Dr. Derek McAleer, Director of Administrative Services, wrote a letter to South Georgia United Methodists. Read that letter below.
Vital Information Regarding Boy Scouts And The Church
In February 2020, the national Boy Scouts of America (“BSA”) - one of the largest scouting organizations in the US - filed for bankruptcy to protect itself against a growing number of sexual abuse claims made against it. This bankruptcy process is intended to allow the BSA to deal with these claims through the creation of and payment from a victim’s compensation trust fund and still continue its operations. (Note that BSA refers to the national Boy Scouts, and not to individual local scout councils.)
In July 2021, BSA reached an $850 million settlement with more than 60,000 men who filed claims against BSA over alleged sexual abuse by adults in scouting over several decades. This settlement has not yet been approved by a court, and some plaintiffs oppose it. The Court has held hearings, requested a plan of bankruptcy from BSA, and involved various attorneys representing claimants and insurance companies. The proposals submitted by BSA include an unspecified amount from chartered organizations and local BSA councils. There are other claims not included in this settlement which must also be handled.
Sadly, chartered organizations have not been involved in these discussions – even though there could be significant liability for chartered organizations, and a payout by chartered organizations seems to be assumed. If an alleged victim decides to sue, it is likely the suit will name the Scouts, the host church or chartered organization, the district, the conference, and any other organization who might be able to assist in covering the claim. Even if these additional defendants are found to have no liability, the cost of defending their position could be substantial.
In light of BSA's failure to include chartered organizations in the process, failure to adequately insure chartered organizations against liablity, and in view of our concern that churches not continue to be exposed to needless liability, we are recommending that churches not charter BSA scouting organizations at this time. If your church has signed a charter for this year, we recommend you notify your local scout council in writing that you will no longer charter scouts after Dec. 31, 2021.
Should a church want to continue to support their BSA scout packs or troops, we recommend the church utilitze a Facilities Use Agreement (FUA) that allows scouting organizations to use the church facilities. This FAU clarifies that the church is providing space, but does not assume any responsibility for nor liabilty for scouting activities or organizations. This FUA originated in the Office of Civic Youth-Serving Agencies/ Scouting Ministries of The United Methodist Men as part of their response to BSA bankruptcy and proposed settlement. (Download sample FUA). The local scout council would then be the chartered organization.
We have prepared a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document, which provides further details.
We make this recommendation with no animosity towards scouting. We do not recommend that scouts be abandoned. Our first responsibility is to the churches of the South Georgia Conference. The actions of the national BSA place chartered organizations at risk. We recommend that our churches not accept the risk.
Derek W. McAleer
Cater C. Thompson