By Kirk Petersen
Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry has notified all domestic diocesan bishops that a November 16 deadline is fast approaching for filing claims against the Boy Scouts of America related to sexual abuse litigation, and urged bishops to spread the word within their dioceses.
“Any congregation which may have sponsored or been affiliated with a BSA troop may want to consider if the congregation, any of its parishioners or members of such troops may have claims against the BSA that should be asserted,” said the Rt. Rev. Audrey C. Scanlan, Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, in an email to the diocese.
In the Diocese of Tennessee, the Rev. Jody Howard, canon to the ordinary, told churches “you may have a potential claim in the bankruptcy that would entitle your congregation to protections from BSA’s insurance in the event of a lawsuit naming the troop/pack etc that met at or was sponsored by your congregation.” Howard also provided a four-page message and Q&A document to help churches decide if they need to file a claim.
The deadline for receiving claims is November 16 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. The date was specified by Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein, who is overseeing the bankruptcy claim filed by the Boy Scouts in February. Adding to the time pressure is the fact that filing is a complicated process, as spelled out in the 63-page motion and claim form approved by the court.
The bankruptcy filing is intended to protect some of the assets of the BSA, while also creating a large settlement fund for abuse victims. The filing covers only the national organization, not the more than 200 separately incorporated local councils that administer the scouting program in a particular geographical area.
Curry spoke with the bishops on October 19 in a Zoom meeting. Spokesperson Nancy Davidge confirmed that the call occurred, and said it was a regularly scheduled, weekly Zoom meeting that the bishops have begun to hold during the pandemic to discuss a variety of issues.
The Boy Scouts potentially face tens of thousands of claims of child sexual abuse. Judge Silverstein ruled in mid-October that the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice could join the mediation negotiations toward a settlement. The coalition says it represents 28,000 clients. Another group, Abused in Scouting, says it represents 13,000 clients. BSA was founded in 1910, and many of the abuse claims date back decades.
“The Boy Scouts of America believes our organization has a social and moral responsibility to equitably compensate all victims who were abused during their time in Scouting,” according to a post on bsarestructuring.org, “We also have a duty to carry out our mission for years to come.”