BOISE, Idaho — Four men are suing the Mormon church and Boy Scouts of America in federal court, saying they were sexually abused while attending scouting functions in Idaho.
Attorneys Gilion Dumas, Andrew Chasan and Timothy Walton filed the lawsuit in Boise’s U.S. District Court on Monday on behalf of the men, who are named only as John Does I-IV.
Three of the men say they were in troops sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that they were abused by scout leaders while at Scouting functions or on camping trips. The fourth says he was in a troop sponsored by the Elks Club in Lewiston when he was abused.
Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit but said the organization was one of the first youth programs in the nation to develop youth protection policies and education.
“Any instance of child victimization or abuse is intolerable and unacceptable,” Smith said in a prepared statement. “While we can’t comment on the lawsuit, we deeply regret that there have been times when Scouts were abused, and for that we are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims.”
Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the LDS Church, said it’s difficult to provide information on the cases mentioned in the lawsuit because they happened between 28 and 41 years ago and the plaintiffs aren’t named. But he said in the decades since, society has learned a great deal about abuse, and the LDS Church has taken significant steps to recognize and prevent abuse and to care for victims.
He said in a prepared statement that the church has zero tolerance for abuse and those who engage in abuse are subject to prosecution and church discipline.
In the lawsuit, the men allege that the LDS Church was such a proponent of Scouting that it made joining the Boy Scouts an official part of the Aaronic Priesthood, a status the church confers on boys starting at age 12 that allows them to offer communion to church members, collect money for the poor and do other acts of service and support for the church. The men contend every LDS ward was supposed to maintain a Scout troop, and that church leaders were in charge of selecting and supervising Scout leaders.
The Boy Scouts began keeping files on people who were deemed ineligible to volunteer for the organization — because they molested children, stole money from the organization or committed other transgressions — as early as 1920, according to the lawsuit. Thousands of those files have since been publicly released as former Scouts sued the organization over sexual abuse.
The men contend that the existence of those files shows the Boy Scouts of America knew Scouts faced a real risk of abuse. They say the BSA’s failure to warn prospective and current Scouts, their parents and others shows a pattern of fraud and misrepresentation. Likewise, the men say the LDS Church knew that some of its Scoutmasters and troop leaders had molested boys in the past and that it nevertheless continued to put boys in harms’ way.
John Doe I and John Doe II say they were around 12 years old when the same Scout leader began abusing them on camping trips. Doe I also says the abuse happened in 1982 at a ward building and in the attic of the BSA Council headquarters in Boise.
John Doe III contends he was about 14 years old in 1981 when a different scout leader abused him on a weeklong camping trip. He says even though that scout leader was placed in the Boy Scout’s ineligible volunteer files a few years later for allegedly molesting scouts, he was hired to do graphic design work for the Boy Scouts in southern Idaho’s Teton Council a few years after that.
John Doe IV says he was a member of Scout Troop 176 in Lewiston when his scout leader began molesting him. Doe IV alleges he was about 12 when the abuse began in 1972, and that the abuse lasted for years.
“Just by a review of the information contained in the Boy Scouts’ own records and from newspaper stories, there were at least 15 pedophile Scout leaders in southern Idaho and Lewiston,” Chasan said in a prepared statement.
The men are asking for monetary damages in an amount to be proven at trial.