The Boy Scouts of America has reached a US$850 million settlement with groups representing tens of thousands of ex-scouts with sexual abuse claims.
This marks a major step toward addressing a deluge of accusations that has sent the organisation into bankruptcy, reports Reuters.
In a filing on Thursday with the US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) said the settlement with the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice and two other groups covers claims by about 60,000 abuse survivors.
It said the accord provides a framework for a global resolution of abuse claims and could allow it to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection “late this year”.
“Bringing these groups together marks a significant milestone as the BSA works toward our dual imperatives of equitably compensating survivors of abuse and preserving the mission of scouting,” the 111-year-old organisation said in a statement.
Thursday’s settlement requires a judge’s approval and could face opposition from insurers that would have to make the payouts.
Founded in 1910, the BSA filed for Chapter 11 in February 2020 after being hit with a torrent of historical sex abuse lawsuits.
These lawsuits were filed after several US states began letting people sue over alleged sex abuses that occurred decades earlier.
The reputation of the BSA had taken a battering for decades over alleged homosexual behaviour. In the late 20th century it faced growing criticism over its ban on homosexual troop leaders.
In 1999 James Dale, an openly gay assistant scoutmaster, sued the organisation after he was expelled.
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the BSA in 2000 but the controversy continued, and some corporate sponsors stopped funding the BSA.
Current president and CEO, Roger Mosby, told the AP, “We understand that this is a difficult and often emotional decision, but in some instances may be a necessary step as we work toward our shared imperatives of equitably compensating survivors and continuing Scouting’s mission.”
The Boy Scout movement was founded in Britain in 1908 by cavalry officer, Robert Baden-Powell, who had written a book called Scouting for Boys.
Baden-Powell’s book described many games and contests that he had used to train cavalry troops in scouting, and it became popular reading among British boys.
The Boy Scouts aimed to develop good citizenship, chivalrous behaviour, and skill in various outdoor activities.
It became a global success story, with millions of scouts of all nationalities, but has suffered from declining membership for decades.