Hidden Scout Files Show More Interest In Preventing Bad Publicity

created image showing file folder with BSA logo and words TOP SECRET

A few weeks ago, as the result of a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), files with names of people excluded from the Boy Scouts from 1965-1985 was released to the public. These “perversion files” list names and details of adults who were kicked out either because they abused the boys they were in charge of or were accused of abusing boys. The BSA attempted to keep these files hidden. One file for a man in my area illustrates why BSA and similar groups are on the wrong side of the child abuse reporting issue. Identifying abusers and protecting children is FAR more important than any bad public relations for doing so.

When the files were released I was interested in checking them out. I was a Boy Scout from the mid 70’s to 1985. Although I never experienced any abuse, I wanted to see if any leaders I might have known back then was on the list. Luckily there was no one from my area in the files.

Then I took a look at some of the files for people located in my current home area and found one that shows one reason the Boy Scouts tried to hide these abuse incidents.

A 1967 file entry for a man named Lawrence McGown caught my eye. The man had a 12 year record of sex crimes and he had served time in prison. The only crime specifically named in the file, sodomy, was his last known offense before the file entry was created.

What was really shocking compared to how these issues are handled today is the man was sent to work with the Boy Scouts by the Bishop of his Mormon temple. The man was a convicted sex offender and the Bishop thought that working with children would “fix” him. Here is an image showing a portion of the file:

image showing Portion of 1967 BSA Letter

Here’s some of the text:

He also told us… he had told his Bishop that he was convicted, what he was convicted for; to which the Bishop answered that he should work with the Boy Scout Troop.

Then toward the end of the letter, the BSA investigator wrote:

We will follow up with a meeting with the Bishop, but in the meantime, this is for your information, to share with those Mormons who should know. I would hate to lose a Scout Troop. One of the the things that bothered me in his conversation, was that he would “see now how much his church would back him”. This may be a key to future episodes. Even though he admits his mistakes and has served for them, he is now depending on the church to back him up and keep him on in Scouting.

Letter dated October 24th 1967

Luckily, even though the Bishop didn’t want to see McGown kicked out, they did force him out of the Boy Scouts and put his name in the file to exclude him from future leadership work in the BSA.

I’m not one to just shun, forever, a convicted felon after they finish their time but some crimes limit what you may be allowed to do in the future. If you have served time for theft then I wouldn’t want to hire you to handle money. If you are convicted of sex crimes then you might not be able to work with children especially if you might be alone with them like at a camp out.

The crimes McGown was convicted of aren’t detailed except for the last one – sodomy – but what constituted a sex crime in 1967 is somewhat different than what we have now – sodomy laws have been used to discriminate and harass men who happened to be gay for example – and there wasn’t any information in the file that the sex crimes McGown was convicted of had anything to do specifically with children. However a pattern of sex crimes should exclude you from working with children. 

Luckily today adult leaders for most activities involving children have to have some kind of background check. It isn’t fool proof but is better than a hidden “perversion file” like the BSA had.

The general consensus is that the safety of children is more important than possible bad PR for the organization. The Boy Scouts, and other groups like the Catholic church, have had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to accept that consensus.

You not only exclude the abusers but you also report it to the proper authorities as soon as you learn about it.