Latter-day Saints and Methodists back Scouting’s latest bankruptcy plan to fund survivors’ claims

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Two faith groups that have long supported the Boy Scouts of America have pledged to play a key role in the latest revamp of the Scouting organization’s bankruptcy, the fallout from tens of thousands of sexual abuse complaints within its ranks.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and The United Methodist Church appear as “contributing chartered organizations” listed in the massive plan released in mid-February that is expected to be considered by a U.S. bankruptcy court on 14 March. two denominations plan to contribute $280 million to a proposed settlement that could exceed $2.7 billion.

“The Church of Jesus Christ has reached agreement on a Chapter 11 plan that is supported by the vast majority of survivors and their councils, including the official committee representing survivors of abuse and the representative of future survivors of abuse. abuse, Boy Scouts of America, and a number of participating insurers,” Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the Utah-based faith, said in a statement to the Religion News Service.

The church ended its affiliation with the BSA in 2019, opting to create its own global youth leadership and development program, ahead of bankruptcy proceedings.

The $250 million the church committed to the settlement “will be used entirely to compensate those who may have been harmed while participating in scouting units sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” , Hawkins said. “The church agreement and large sum payment covers all Boy Scouts and Scout units that were part of the BSA and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

The United Methodist Church announced in December that it and the BSA had reached an agreement related to the settlement.

The official committee representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the BSA announced its support for the revised plan, released on February 10, saying it believed it would improve protection for children and increase compensation for survivors . He suggested that survivors who had voted against the previous version of the plan change their vote to accept the revised version.

Steven Scheid, director of the United Methodist Scouting Ministries Center, said Methodist leaders also support the new restructuring plan.

“Together with BSA management, we are developing a new set of documents to guide the relationship,” he said in a statement to RNS. He said United Methodist church charters, or official ties, with the troops that were in effect until March 31 have been extended until June 30.

United Methodists announced in December that they would raise and contribute $30 million over three years to help fund compensation for victims of abuse.

“If the plan is approved in the trial set to begin March 14, claims against United Methodist congregations and entities will be directed to the Survivors Trust Fund,” United Methodist Bishop John Schol told RNS in a statement. communicated.

Schol led the United Methodist Church leadership team that supported founding organizations within the denomination as bankruptcy proceedings continued.

The links of religious groups with the Boy Scouts have, in some cases – including Methodists and Latter Day Saints – existed for more than a century.

“Religious organizations have been an important part of the backbone of the Boy Scouts of America,” said Los Angeles attorney Paul Mones, who was co-counsel in the case that delivered the biggest verdict in punitive damages against the BSA when a jury awarded a 38-year-old former Scout $19.9 million in 2010.

The BSA said its reorganization plan “provides broad releases and protection for chartered organizations. Specifically, chartered organizations that do not oppose the plan will be released from all claims that arose after 1976 and also from certain claims that arose before 1976 when those claims are covered by insurance with an insurer that has settled .

But the Scout organization added that in the year after the plan takes effect, “we expect the Settlement Trustee to work with chartered organizations to identify any claims that have not not been released under the plan and to allow chartered organizations to decide whether they wish to contribute to the settlement trust in order to obtain a release for these claims.

Other religious institutions “may have a liability and they will have a year after the plan takes effect to see if they want to reach some kind of settlement with the trust in order to get protection,” Mones said. “I’m sure the Boy Scouts bankruptcy came as a complete shock to most of them and they were caught off guard.”

Some religious groups, including the United Church of Christ, have not taken a position on the plan.

“UCC’s congregational regime is such that the chartering of BSA units is at the discretion of each local church,” Reverend Michael Schuenemeyer, a UCC leader whose office includes the UCC Scouting Task Force. While the national UCC has a memorandum of understanding with the BSA for its support of Scouting, “there is no centralized governance or administration with our local churches regarding the chartering of BSA units”.

UCC General Counsel Heather Kimmel told RNS that congregations should seek advice from their lawyers and insurers on how to respond to the BSA’s new plan.

“How the plan will affect a local church will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding any Scouting abuse claims against local churches and the elections the local church has made under the plan,” she said in an e-mail to the RNS.

Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co., an insurer of Christian ministries, said it received dozens of inquiries from ministries regarding the BSA bankruptcy filing and posted answers to frequently asked questions on its website.

The head of a Roman Catholic ad hoc committee, which includes several dioceses and archdioceses and was formed to support the interests of the Catholic Church during the BSA bankruptcy process, declined to comment on Monday and returned questions to his lawyer, who did not immediately respond.

The BSA did not directly respond to an inquiry into the status of those negotiations, but told RNS in a statement in late February that it “has focused on ensuring that approved partners are fairly represented and that they can continue to support Scouting”.

Schol said the Methodist committee hopes other groups will support the plan.

“If these organizations are prosecuted, they will have to defend themselves in court,” he told RNS. “United Methodists have supported and continue to support the release of all chartered organizations, and we encourage them to join in the healing of survivors.”

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