Despite being still frantically busy with the Catholic sexual abuse of minors scandal, the New York Times is following two other such scandals — one involving the Boy Scouts of America and the other threatening New York state (see previous post).

On April 23 the BSA were ordered to pay $18.5 million in punitive damages in a case brought by Kerry Lewis against an assistant troop leader in the early 1980s, when Lewis was about 12. “The verdict was by far the largest ever against the Scouts in a jury trial,” says the Times. The same jury had already awarded Lewis $1.4 million in compensatory damages.

Most abuse cases involving the Scouts have ended in private settlements, and it is unknown how much the group has paid to victims.

In the Oregon case, about 1,000 files, from the years 1965 to 1984, were included as evidence, though the judge, John A. Wittmayer, allowed only the jury and lawyers involved to view them.

Lawyers for Mr. Lewis, who is now 37, said in court that the files detailed many instances across the country in which troop leaders or volunteers were allowed to continue working with children even after the Scouts had received complaints that they had committed sexual abuse.

“They hid the problem,” Paul Mones, a lawyer for Mr. Lewis, said in closing arguments on Thursday, “and by hiding the problem, more abuse happened.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The Times and other news organisations are trying to get access to the files. It is reassuring to see that the paper, which has been scouring the world for church documents, is being even-handed about this. A spokesman for the Scouts sent the times an email saying:

“Access to the file is kept private to protect accusers from retaliation and to protect the privacy of victims. And, since B.S.A. acts on suspicion, not proof, to guard against liability to those who may have been accused in error.”

Once again, there are no “paedophiles” in this story, and the age of the victim at the time is given. That would be a good rule to follow in all reporting on this subject.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet