For background, the “Perversion Files” are a subcategory of the Boy Scouts’ Ineligible Volunteer Files (or “IV Files”) — secret files kept by the national Boy Scouts of America in their headquarters starting shortly after the Boy Scouts were founded in 1919. Each perversion file documented information about an individual scout leader, most of whom were suspected of sexually abusing boys. By 1935, over 1,000 men had been kicked out of Scouting for sexually abusing boys. Nevertheless, the Boy Scouts kept the problem of Scout Leaders sexually abusing boys as quiet as possible and, for decades, failed to implement reasonable policies to protect boys in the local troops.
There are dozens of files from Oregon that document sexual abuse of boy scouts by trusted Scoutmasters. This is one of those stories.
On September 14, 1987, prosecutors in La Grande, Oregon indicted a former Eastern Oregon “Scouter of the Year”—Franklin Leon Mathias—on multiple counts of sexual abuse of teenage boys. Mathias had served for decades as a elementary teacher in public schools, as a devout Mormon who gave his time to Sunday School classes, and as an adult volunteer in Scouting. While there was much shock and surprise over these revelations, a criminal psychiatric evaluation of Mathias noted that he had “joined church and became involved in scouts to have access to victims.”
The Church, Scouts, and even the police had done their best to keep the scandal quiet. Senior Scouting District Executive, Larry Sorensen, noted that:
[A]ll information concerning the nature of [Mathias’s] problem was held confidential until September 4 1987 when he was arrested. Apparently, to my knowledge, the only people who were appraised of the situation were key church leaders in the La Grande, Oregon Stake of the L.D.S. Church and the La Grande 2nd Ward, a church counselor and the State Police conducting the investigation, all of which held information in strict confidence.
The Scouts had selfish reasons for keeping these types of stories quiet—namely to avoid bad publicity and private lawsuits filed by sexual abuse survivors or their parents.
Then a proverbial bombshell hit La Grande: during the sentencing phase of Mathias’s trial, Union County District Attorney Russ West announced that his office’s investigation into Mathias had uncovered evidence that Mathias had sexually abused more than 70 victims during Mathias’s adult life. Mathias himself admitted to sexually violating ten boys at Greenwood Elementary School in 1962. Greenwood officials had learned about Mathias’s sexual abuse of students, but “agreed not to prosecute if [Mathias] avoided teaching, scouts or other activities that involve children.”
Naturally, Mathias did not keep his word with Greenwood Elementary. The judge in Mathias’s criminal case, lamenting the lack of transparency and accountability, stated, “I am disappointed . . . that this matter wasn’t handled by the system in 1962 – we wouldn’t have all this wreckage now.”
During Mathias’s trial, a local Scout Executive from Kennewick, Washington optimistically reported to BSA headquarters that, “So far, we are not involved and do not have any lawsuits pending against us.” The manager of the Boy Scout’s secret Perversion Files at Boy Scouts Headquarters, Paul Ernst, wrote back to say: “[t]hank you for your help in protecting the youth of America.”
Of course, the Boy Scouts efforts to keep the problem of child sexual abuse a secret did just the opposite — fostering a system and culture of abuse that would result in further wreckage of the lives of untold numbers of boys. The Mathias case is a prime example of how keeping abuse a secret — sweeping it under the rug — only allows predators to continue abusing others in the future.
You can read the complete Perversion File on Frank Mathias here: franklin-leon-mathias
The attorneys at Crew Janci LLP have extensive experience holding the Boy Scouts of America, the Mormon Church, and other institutions of trust accountable, exposing the truth and making today’s youth safer.