Jump directly to the content

Recent DevelopmentsRecent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Personal Injuries - Part 2
On Church Property or During Church Activities
Virginia
State:

Denominations that conduct scouting programs will be interested in a recent ruling of the Virginia Supreme Court refusing to find the Boy Scouts of America legally responsible for the homosexual assaults of a local scoutmaster. Here are the facts. At the age of 12, a boy became a member of a local scout troop in Virginia. The boy alleged that his scoutmaster initiated a homosexual relationship with him and had homosexually molested him on 60 or more occasions over a period of a year, persuading him that such behavior was normal and acceptable. The relationship caused the boy severe psychological, emotional, and physical harm, resulting in his withdrawal from school and commitment to in-patient treatment in a psychiatric hospital. The scoutmaster was later convicted of a number of felonies as a result of his homosexual offenses against the boy (and two other scouts), and was sentenced to a lengthy term in the state penitentiary. The boy and his parents sued the scoutmaster, the national offices of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), and a regional scouting organization (the National Capital Area Council, or "NCAC"). They argued that BSA and NCAC were legally responsible for the boy's injuries since they were "negligent in the selection and retention" of the scoutmaster. Specifically, they claimed that BSA and NCAC "should have known" that the scoutmaster had been convicted five years earlier of four counts of sexual assault upon a boy scout in Rhode Island while acting as a scoutmaster there. After a six-week trial, a jury (after seven days of deliberations) ruled in favor of BSA, but found the NCAC negligent and awarded damages of $45,000. However, the court ordered the scoutmaster's attorney's fees of $37,000 to be paid out of this judgment (effectively reducing the family's award to $8,000). The family appealed the verdict exonerating BSA, and the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the trial court's ruling in favor of BSA. The court began its opinion by noting that there are approximately 1.5 million adult volunteers who work with the Boy Scouts each year, with an annual turnover of about one-third. When a local troop selects a scoutmaster, it sends an "adult application" to the local council which forwards it on to BSA. When BSA receives an application, it checks the applicant's name against a confidential list of persons previously reported to BSA as "unfit." If the individual's name does not appear on the list, and he meets other requirements, the application is approved. In addition, a local troop can discharge a scoutmaster directly without any prior approval by BSA or the local council. The court found it significant that BSA had not been informed of the scoutmaster's conviction on several counts of sexual molestation in Rhode Island. His name did not appear on the confidential list of persons previously reported to BSA as "unfit." The scoutmaster was hired by the local troop in Virginia after two or three interviews. Neither BSA nor NCAC took any part in his selection. BSA was not informed of the scoutmaster's pedophilia until after his arrest and criminal prosecution. The court concluded that there was "abundant evidence" to support the jury's conclusion that BSA did not "hire or retain" the scoutmaster, and accordingly it could not be legally responsible for his behavior.

Article Preview

This article is currently available to ChurchLawAndTax.com subscribers only. To continue reading:

View All
from our store
Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Laws

Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Laws

Did you know pastors and other church staff may be required by law to report child abuse and that laws on this vary state by state?
Sex Offenders in the Church

Sex Offenders in the Church

Legal and safety concerns to address when dealing with a sex offender.
Reducing the Risk

Reducing the Risk

Keep your church safe from child sexual abuse.
Juvenile Offenders in the Church

Juvenile Offenders in the Church

How to protect children from juveniles who sexually abuse other children.

ChurchSalary

ChurchSalary

Experience a whole new way to set compensation. Eliminate the guesswork – get access to detailed compensation reports in just minutes.