* Scouts had secret list of suspected molesters-lawyers
* BSA says it now has strict safety policies
(Adds details on Oregon lawsuit)
CHICAGO/PORTLAND, Ore. Dec 4 (Reuters) - The Boy Scouts of
America knew for decades that it attracted pedophiles as
volunteers but failed to protect children or warn parents of the
risk, according to lawsuits filed against the youth organization
in Illinois and Oregon on Tuesday.
In the Illinois case, a former Boy Scout who says he was
sexually assaulted when he was 10 by his now-imprisoned former
troop leader cites as evidence recently released files the
organization secretly maintained on suspected molesters in its
In the Oregon case, a former Eagle Scout who claims he was
molested by his troop leader when he was 11 says the group knew
there was a "institution-wide problem of Scout leaders sexually
abusing" children but that it "actively concealed the problem."
Kelly Clark, the attorney in the Oregon lawsuit, said the
two cases filed on Tuesday were "the same vintage" and reflected
the same basic failure by the group's leadership to warn parents
of the risks.
"By the mid 1960s the Boy Scouts knew everything they needed
to know to protect those kids and they weren't doing it," Clark
said. "Kids continued to get abused."
SCOUTS EXPRESS REGRET
The Illinois lawsuit claims the Scouts allowed Thomas
Hacker, a Scout leader barred from the group after a 1970s
felony sex abuse conviction in Indiana, to rejoin as a volunteer
in Illinois in the 1980s, where he went on to molest more boys,
including the plaintiff.
Hacker was arrested in 1988 and convicted in 1989 of the
aggravated sexual assault of a 11-year-old member of his troop
in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.
Now 75, Hacker is currently serving two concurrent 50-year
prison terms as a result of his conviction. His defense attorney
in the 1989 case called him "a classic pedophile - and sick
beyond that," according to a Chicago Tribune story at the time.
The Illinois lawsuit filed on Tuesday by a man identified
only as John Doe claims Hacker sexually assaulted him when he
was 10 years old after the disbarred Boy Scout leader and
convicted sexual molester was allowed to re-join the Scouts in
Illinois because no one ran a background check on him.
In the Oregon suit, a former Scout identified as "Henry Doe"
alleges the Boy Scouts did not protect him from being repeatedly
sexually molested by a Scout troop leader.
The troop leader, identified as James J. Jones in the
lawsuit, molested the boy weekly for a year, or about 50 times,
the suit says. Jones fondled and had oral and anal sex with the
boy, some of it forced, the suit says. Jones threatened to kill
the boy if he resisted, the suit says.
In a statement, the Boy Scouts said, "we deeply regret that
there have been times when Scouts were abused, and for that we
are very sorry and extend our deepest sympathies to victims."
The Illinois suit draws on details unearthed this fall when
the Boy Scouts of America, one of the country's largest youth
organizations, was forced by an Oregon court to release internal
documents they kept on Scout leaders and volunteers who were
suspected sexual predators.
The files go back almost to the organization's founding in
1910 and were known as the "red files," the "perversion files"
and the "ineligible volunteer files."
Roughly 20,000 pages of files, spanning from 1965 to 1985,
were released this fall by order of the Oregon Supreme Court,
after a jury in the state found the Scouts liable in a 1980s
pedophile case and ordered it to pay nearly $20 million in
BACKGROUND CHECKS NOW REQUIRED
The Boy Scouts of America says it now requires even
suspected cases of child molestation to be reported immediately
to law enforcement and says keeping the old files secret
Last week, a Texas appeals court sided with the group,
saying the Scouts did not have to turn over its post-1985 files
describing sexual abuse complaints against volunteers.
"The Boy Scouts have taken the view that keeping these files
secret protects the children," said Christopher Hurley, the
Chicago attorney representing John Doe in the Illinois case
"But in this case it obviously didn't work. It may protect
the molesters and the Boy Scouts, but it's not in the best
interests of children."
The Scouts say the group has added background checks and
training programs and now requires law enforcement to be told
when there are "even suspicions" of abuse.
(Editing by Dan Burns and Cynthia Osterman)