Yesterday, CNN reporters Scott Zamost and Kyra Phillips broke a story on the dark history of child sexual abuse in the LDS Church-sponsored Boy Scout troops. The story centers on the case of former Boy Scout, Melvin Novak, who was molested by his Mormon Scoutmaster, Vance Hein.
In what the article called a first, an LDS Church Elder, L. Whitney Clayton, responded to Novak’s claims and other longstanding allegations of rampant sexual abuse in LDS Scout troops: “We have a zero tolerance policy or position with respect to child abuse, and we train our people, we teach our people, we work with leaders, we provide materials online and in hard copy.”
Whether or not that is true today, it wasn’t always so.
Prior to Hein’s sexual abuse of Novak, Hein was kicked out of Scouting and placed in BSA’s “Perversion files,” an extensive dossier system created in the 1910s to track pedophiles in Scouting. Later, Hein’s LDS Church Bishop, Jack Moyer, intervened and attested to Hein’s good moral character. Based on that recommendation, the BSA relented and allowed Hein to rejoin Scouting.
Thereafter, Hein began sexually assaulting fourteen year-old Novak. The article quotes an attorney for the LDS Church stating, “If the Boy Scouts had disclosed to Bishop Moyer the information they had in their files, there is no way that Vance Hein would have ever become a scoutmaster, and he would have been subject to excommunication by the church.”
Our experience litigating numerous LDS-BSA sexual abuse cases highlights that the blame and finger-pointing between the two organizations can go in both directions. The LDS Church has repeatedly mounted campaigns to rehabilitate repeat offenders and keep them in Church-sponsored Boy Scout troops.
In the lead-up to our 2010 Lewis v. BSA trial (in which we won a $20 million verdict for our client), we discovered that a Portland LDS Church Bishop and leader of the local church’s Boy Scout troop had not been forthright with police about how many children Assistant Scoutmaster, Timur Dykes, had abused in order to minimize the crimes and rehabilitate Dykes. The Bishop’s efforts were successful—Despite Dykes’ admitted abuse of 17 Mormon Scouts, he faced no jail time and was allowed to rejoin LDS Church-sponsored Boy Scout troops. Following his supposed rehabilitation, Dykes spent years sexually violating numerous children in LDS Church-sponsored Scout troops.
The same pattern played out in cases involving James Hogan. In 1974, the BSA banned Hogan from Scouting for sexually assaulting several Cub Scouts. In 1981, a Portland LDS Church leader, intervened on Hogan’s behalf and requested that BSA readmit him, despite the fact that local Church leaders had received ongoing complaints about Hogan’s inappropriate interaction with children.
The Church official wrote in a March 27, 1981 letter to the Boy Scouts: “The purpose of this letter is to put to rest the unresolved allegations on record for James Hogan. Mr. Hogan is a member of the Portland First Ward in the Oregon Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Having discussed this matter thoroughly with [the] Bishop . . . and . . . Stake President, I am completely satisfied that the accusations on record are completely without substance.”
BSA allowed Hogan to re-register as an adult leader under its own in-house “probation” program, in which known pedophiles were allowed to return to Scouting and work with children. As in the other cases, Hogan went on to molest dozens of children in LDS Church-sponsored Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops.
The finger-pointing in the CNN article is unlikely to disturb the LDS-BSA relationship. The LDS Church and BSA have a century-long collaborative relationship. In 1913, the LDS Church became the first organization chartered by BSA. By 1928, the LDS Church had made Scouting its official church youth program.
In 1951, the two organizations setup an official relationship committee that exists to this day and operates an independent office and website. Numerous LDS Church leaders have served on BSA National Executive Board, including current LDS Church president Thomas Spencer Monson, who has been a member for over four decades. According to the numbers cited in the article, nearly a half-million of the 2.6 million Boy Scouts in the United States are members of LDS Church-sponsored troops.
If you or someone you know has information about abuse in an LDS-sponsored Cub Scout pack or Boy Scout troop and want to speak with someone confidentially, please call toll-free at 1-888-407-0224 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.