For years the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) hid the fact they kept detailed records of scoutmasters and other volunteers who were suspected of molesting children. The organization says the files, known as the "perversion files" and number in the thousands, were compiled to make sure pedophiles were kicked out and stayed out of Scouting. Now an analysis of files obtained by the KING 5 Investigators shows top officials in the youth organization were keeping files on suspected gay Scout leaders as well.
Gay Eagle Scout and former troop leader Joe Hopkins of Seattle is outraged and hurt upon seeing some of the files for himself.
"It's unbelievable to actually see the proof that they've been doing this. It's really sad," said Hopkins. "I loved being a Boy Scout. I totally immersed myself in the program. I think (they) gave me the fundamental values of a moral life. And now to have them turn around and say, you're automatically bad. It appalls me."
The "perversion files", also known as the "ineligible volunteer files" came to light through a handful of civil court cases against the BSA, including some claims in Seattle. Lawyers representing alleged abuse victims say the collection of files proves that top Scouting officials knew by the 1960's that pedophiles were gaining access to victims through Scouting, yet they failed to institute policies to protect their young, vulnerable Scouts until the 1980's.
The KING 5 Investigators are the first journalists in the country to reveal that within the secret files on suspected molesters are files on leaders who are gay. According to the Director of Communications for BSA, Deron Smith, the records exist to help carry out the organization's long standing policy of excluding gay people from Scouting.
Boy Scout exclusion policy
"Not all of the files pertain to sexual abuse. The Ineligible Volunteer Files are essentially a “list” of people who do not meet BSA’s standards because of various types of alleged or proven inappropriate conduct either inside or outside Scouting, including – but not limited to - theft, substance abuse, immoral conduct, criminal convictions, or known or suspected child abuse," said Smith.
This summer a committee formed by the Boy Scouts organization reaffirmed the group's policy of barring openly gay boys from membership and gay or lesbian adults from leadership positions or volunteering on any level. The official policy reads: "While the Boy Scouts of America does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission o the B.S.A."
The 11-member committee spent two years conducting a secret internal review of the policy. They concluded the exclusion policy "reflects the beliefs and perspectives" of the organization.
No one knew Joe Hopkins was gay during his years participating in Scouting, so he doesn't believe a file exists on him. But he feels betrayed by the very organization he believes helped him become the good person he is today.
"It's part of my Scout training that I have to speak up for something that's wrong. The Scouts taught me if it's wrong to speak out," said Hopkins. "Part of Scouting is tolerance and I don't think that they're teaching tolerance with their current policy. And basically saying people who are gay or lesbian are second class citizens. We're citizens just like the rest of America."
Of the 50 secret files obtained by KING 5, 48 contain records about suspected child molestation. The other two include documents only related to sexual orientation.
One file is about a scoutmaster form Ellensburg who was ousted from Scouting in 1974 after the organization had collected evidence he was gay. A memorandum from a Scout Executive in Yakima to the organization's Registration and Subscription Executive at BSA headquarters in Texas explains they'd "become aware of a suspected moral problem" with (the Scout leader). The Yakima executive received information that the man had previously been discharged as a Scouting camp counselor "on suspicion of homosexuality." The Scouts continued to build their case in the file by obtaining "proof" of their suspicion. The record is a four page letter handwritten by the scoutmaster where he confides to a friend, "Yes, I am gay (homosexual)". It's unclear from the file how BSA obtained the letter. The following month BSA leaders in Texas completed their file with a lifetime ban on the scoutmaster. Their "Confidential Record Sheet" lists one reason for the move: "homosexuality".
In 1990 a Chapter Chief from Seattle was removed from the Scouting program for being gay. The Scouts launched an investigation and created a file on the man after a parent wrote to complain the leader was "effeminate". The parent was concerned the Chapter Chief was "exerting influence over impressionable boys". The Scout Executive of the Chief Seattle Council, Dean Lollar, requested written proof of the man's sexual orientation from a Chapter adviser who had befriended the suspected gay leader. The friend documented a conversation with the Chapter Chief in which he stated "I am gay. In no way have I or will I ever force myself on any Scouts or Scouters that I work with. The Boy Scouts have done so many wonderful things for me and have given me purpose and goals to work for. I couldn't think of ever doing something the Boy Scouts would be upset with."
The Scouts were upset. They removed the man from the organization a month after receiving the written account of his admission. Scout Executive Lollar sent a letter announcing their decision to the Chapter Chief:
"After careful review, we have decided that your registration with the Boy Scouts of America should be denied. We are therefore compelled to request that you sever any relations that you may have with the Boy Scouts of America. A refund of your registration fee is enclosed. You should understand that BSA membership registration is a privilege and is not automatically granted to everyone who applies. We reserve the right to refuse registration whenever there is a concern that an individual may not meet the high standards of membership which the BSA seeks to provide for American youth."
Hopkins said he'd heard rumors the Scouts kept lists of gay members, but he was shocked to see written proof.
"For a private organization to be conducting witch hunts is an abomination," said Hopkins."I think it's my responsibility as an adult and a gay man to say that this policy is absurd and wrong and the Boy Scouts need to reconsider it. The only way that they're going to reconsider is to have public pressure occur."
Pressure to change policy
BSA has been under renewed pressure to change their exclusion policy this month after a teenager from the San Francisco area was denied his Eagle Scout badge because he is gay. His scoutmaster learned of the boy's sexual orientation and ruled he would be denied the top honor, even though the 17-year-old had earned all the badges needed and recently completed his Eagle Scout final project. The project is a "Tolerance Wall" made of anti-bullying messages. The teen's mother created a web page, urging people to support her son and his dream of becoming an Eagle Scout. As of Thursday 390,295 people had signed the online petition in support of the gay Scout.