RELIGION

Men file sex abuse lawsuit against Boy Scouts, Mormon church

Five men who say they were sexually abused as kids while in the Boy Scouts of America are suing the organization and the Mormon church because they say both groups fraudulently presented the Boy Scouts as a safe, wholesome activity for boys.

The men filed the lawsuit Monday in Boise's U.S. District Court. They contend that the Boy Scouts of America and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knew that there were child molesters in the Boy Scouts, but they covered up the danger instead of letting parents and children know about the risk.

LDS church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a prepared statement, "We have only recently learned about this legal action, and will take time to understand it fully and to respond as appropriate."

The Boy Scouts of America said in a prepared statement that the behavior included in the allegations is abhorrent, and that the organization has strengthened its efforts to protect youth in the years since the abuse occurred.

"Nothing is more important than the safety of our youth members. The BSA is outraged there have been times when Scouts were abused and we sincerely apologize to victims and their families," the Boy Scouts wrote in the statement.

The attorneys bringing the lawsuit — Gilion Dumas and Ashley Vaughn of Portland, Oregon, and Andrew Chasan and Timothy Walton of Boise, Idaho — have represented several other men who brought an earlier lawsuit against the Boy Scouts and the LDS church over sexual abuse. As in the earlier lawsuit, the attorneys contend that the Boy Scouts of America, or BSA, kept files on Scoutmasters accused of sexual misconduct, but it didn't reveal that information to parents, volunteers or others. The attorneys also contend that church officials also knew that there was a problem with child molesters in Idaho troops, but intentionally kept that secret from families and law enforcement agencies.

The Boy Scouts "engaged in a decades-long public relations campaign to represent to the government, the public, and the Scouting community, including Plaintiffs and their families, that Scouting was a safe and morally upright program that was physically, emotionally, and spiritually beneficial for boys," the attorneys wrote in the lawsuit. "Defendants additionally represented that the adult Scout leaders, who were their agents, were appropriate and trustworthy mentors and leaders for young boys."

The LDS church did the same, the plaintiffs contend.

"For example, in 1978, the president of the LDS church said that, 'This (BSA) is not an optional program ... Scouting is no longer on trial. It is an economically, socially, and spiritually sound program,' " they wrote in the lawsuit.

All five of the men were in troops in the Boise or Lewiston regions. Vaughn said the men hope other witnesses or victims of abuse will come forward with information as well.

In the lawsuit, the men all describe being abused while camping or participating in other Boy Scouts events.

One of the scout leaders, Lawrence Libey, was an assistant scoutmaster of a troop in Lewiston in 1968 and 1969, according to the lawsuit.

Libey, who is now deceased, had a boy sleep with him in his tent, alone, while on a camping trip. The troop leader didn't approve and complained to the board of the Lewiston Elks Lodge, which was sponsoring the troop. But a short time later, Libey became the only scoutmaster of the troop, according to the lawsuit, and repeatedly sexually abused one of the plaintiffs and another boy.

Libey was later convicted of sex abuse in 1998.