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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And now its the Boy Scouts turn

     I have been thinking about how to write this blog since the news last week that the confidential files kept by the Boy Scouts on Scout personnel were made available online.  This is a hard blog to write.   I could be angry like everyone when Catholic priests and a coach at Penn State are involved abusing young boys and each institution covered up this abuse.  But when it was the Boy Scouts fingered it struck home because of the abuse I knew about that occurred in the Boy Scouts in my home town.
    I was a Boy Scout in a small town in Pennsylvania in the 1960's that had a pedophile as the Cub Scoutmaster.  He also taught Sunday School at one of the largest churches in town.  So how is that a pedophile is allowed to hold these roles and not get caught?  It might be necessary to relate more of the story to answer that question.
    I was attending a football game when the Cub Scoutmaster, who I knew, came over and sat beside me and chatted with me until the game was over and then offered me a ride home.  Thinking nothing more about this offer than it was nice of him, I accepted.  Instead of driving me right home we drove around talking for almost an hour.  He did nothing more than talk but I did think it was strange that he didn't seem interested in getting me home any time soon.  When I got home and my Mother asked why it had taken so long to get home after the game I told her about what happened.  You could imagine what her reaction was.  Her first reaction was to confront the Scoutmaster directly but then decided to check around town with people who knew the Scoutmaster to see if they could tell her more about him.  What she heard explains why pedophiles are not prosecuted quickly.  My Mother got the same message from everyone to whom she talked,  "he likes young boys so keep your son away from him."  They all knew about him and his preying on young Scouts but were only concerned about protecting their own children.  No one apparently thought it was an issue that needed intervention to protect other children who might innocently be exposed to this pedophile.   For years afterward I would see this man march with young Cub Scouts, past everyone in town, in the Memorial Day Parade.  He was never arrested or prosecuted during his lifetime.
     This was not the only example from my experience with Scouting that explains how these acts were allowed to continue.   While going to the week long summer Boy Scout camp an older Scout sexually abused a younger Scout.  Word of this spread thought our camp and our Scout Master called a meeting of all of the Scouts to tell us that the older Scout had been sent home, would be kicked out of the Scouts and that we didn't need to talk about the incident with anyone.  I never told my parents about it until I was an adult.  You did what an authority figure like the Scout Master told you.
     You might be tempted to think that these incidents are a thing of the past and that we now have an awareness that these are criminal acts that have to be reported to law authorities.  Community organizations now do criminal background checks and we have reporting requirements, right?  While this is true and pedophiles have to be much more careful in their abuse today, the number of pedophiles in our communities has not decreased.  Pedophiles are still on the lookout for vulnerable children and institutional self protection still exists in spite of the large monetary settlements in the recent legal actions.
     One of the reasons I thought so hard about writing this blog is that I had many good experiences with the Boy Scouts and there were so many wonderful adults who donated their time and energy to Scouting in our town.  The Boy Scouts are a wonderful program for young people but sometimes they too "drop the ball."  This has led me to have mixed feeling about the impending law suits that may mean the end of the Boy Scouts as we have know them.

   I did a search of the online files to see if the pedophile mentioned in this blog was in the files.  He was not there.  His years of abusing Scouts had slipped the notice of the national headquarters which makes me wonder how many others also slipped through the system.
    I searched the files listed from Maryland and did find one that referenced a person who listed Columbia as his home address.  I read the letter that he wrote to one of the boys he abused in another state.  The letter is shocking and disturbing in its contents.  With a warning of the about the explicit language in the letter I am posting a link to that letter.

P.S. 1
  I knew that partisan feelings around the Presidential election were high but a bumper sticker I saw this morning showed how far this has come.  "Defend God, Defeat Obama"

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