Boy Scouts Let in Abusers While Fighting Criminal Checks in ’80s

The Boy Scouts of America resisted calls to conduct criminal background checks of volunteers and employees in the late 1980s, a period in which the organization admitted hundreds of suspected pedophiles to its ranks, according to the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper’s analysis of the Scouts’ so-called perversion files—internal documents recently made public by court order—found more than 230 instances of men who had been charged with or convicted of child sex abuse joining the organization from 1985 to 1991.

While major youth charities such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America instituted background checks for all volunteers when they became widely available in the mid-1980s, the Boy Scouts did not do so until 2008. During ’80s debates about national checks, Scouting officials said they would be too costly and scare away potential volunteers and lobbied against state bills to mandate FBI fingerprint testing.

In a statement, the organization said it had strengthened policies over the years in an effort to “ensure we are in line with and, where possible, ahead of society’s knowledge of abuse and best practices for prevention. … Numerous independent experts have recognized that our programs for protecting Scouts from abuse are among the best in the youth-serving community.”

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