August 26, 2021
RE: Boy Scouts of America (BSA), Local BSA Councils, and Troops—BSA Chapter 11 Bankruptcy; Chartering Organizations; Facilities Use Agreement
Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
We greet you in the name of Jesus Christ our Shepherd and Guide!
We write this letter with heavy hearts. In recent months, we have become aware of claims of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America program. The United Methodist Church is currently the largest faith community of chartering organizations serving the Boy Scouts of America program, and many of our churches in the Desert Southwest Conference have scouting ministries. The BSA program has had a positive impact on many youth throughout the decades of its existence. This letter shares important information as well as guidance and direction for the congregations of the Desert Southwest Conference.
BSA CURRENT REALITY
Unfortunately, more than 84,000 people have claimed abuse while a part of the BSA Organization. As a result, the BSA filed for bankruptcy. Recently, BSA announced that an $850 million settlement between the BSA, its Local Councils and two groups representing the claimants has been reached. This settlement is considered to be the largest in a child sexual abuse case in U.S. history. The BSA now plans to negotiate with insurers, and sponsoring and chartering organizations to contribute additional funds, because of potential liability of those entities. Those entities include our local churches, which have, past and present, sponsored or chartered BSA packs and/or troops.
Despite BSA’s consistent assurances that they have maintained adequate insurance to cover the chartering organizations in the case of injured scouts, we now know that the BSA did not, in fact, attain or maintain enough or sufficient insurance. This now places local churches which have chartered BSA packs/troops at potential risk of having to pay significant sums to victims to compensate them for damages suffered at the hands of some leaders in the BSA organization. Additionally, unless chartering local churches have attained and maintained adequate insurance which covers the time period and nature of the injury, the chartering local churches will be saddled with the costs of their own legal defense against those claims. All of this is because the BSA did not fulfill its promise to attain and maintain adequate insurance to protect chartering local churches.
FUTURE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BSA
As other Conferences and local churches are doing, the Desert Southwest Conference Board of Trustees strongly recommends that if your church has an existing relationship with a scouting unit, your church should:
- Continue to support scout troops/packs, but not charter these units;
- Cancel any chartering agreements by no later than December 31, 2021;
- In place of the chartering agreements, immediately establish a relationship statement and a facility usage/lease agreement with the local BSA council and the troop/pack with an end date of December 31, 2021.
A facilities usage agreement is similar to a lease, allowing the scout unit to use your space, but the scout unit and/or local BSA council will be entirely responsible for everything else, including the selection and supervision of leaders and the establishment of adequate insurance coverage.
Your church may have a facilities use agreement already. If not, enclosed is a “Place of Worship Facilities Use Agreement,” prepared by United Methodist leadership, which your church may modify for your purposes.
If your local church does not charter a scout unit at this time, we strongly recommend that you NOT consider chartering a unit until the bankruptcy case is finalized and we have an understanding of how the United Methodist relationship with scouts will continue in the future.
We understand that these suggestions are dramatic, but we think them to be the prudent course of action currently. Our interest is to protect our local churches from costly litigation. We understand that the legal situation may be difficult to understand for those who are not legally trained. After December 31, 2021, we expect that a BSA bankruptcy reorganization plan will be approved by the Bankruptcy Court. When that occurs, we should be in a better position to see how the future will unfold, and we will know better how to proceed. We will keep you informed about new information or developments.
We know the value of scouting. It has played a very large role in the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church for a very long time. Unfortunately, because we have been left without the protections that BSA promised to provide, the BSA is not proving to be faithful in upholding its relationship to The United Methodist Church. We simply cannot continue the relationship with the BSA as it has existed in the past. Until we know how the BSA will be organized and operate in the future, we must make changes sufficient to protect the existence of churches. Hopefully, we will be able to continue our long connection with scouting in a more robust way in the future, but we need to make some changes today to protect our congregations.
We ask you to keep in prayer the alleged victims of abuse and their families, the Boy Scouts of America, the churches, and the Desert Southwest Conference leadership that guides us through this challenging time.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata
Marilee Miller Clarke, Chancellor
Jonathan Arnpriester, Chair of DSC Board of Trustees