What You Need to Know About Supporting Scout Troops

Since the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) filed for bankruptcy protection in 2020, resulting from numerous claims alleging abuse, many religious organizations are examining their connections to and relationships with local scout troops. Consequently, before entering into or continuing a relationship with a local scout troop, your organization should review its risk of liability for future claims alleging abuse by the local troop leaders.

Whether your organization intends to participate by chartering the scouts’ activities or by simply providing a location for the scouts to meet, you should meet with legal counsel to discuss your organization’s risks and to determine the appropriate steps to protect your organization from those risks. Making a clear choice about the extent of your organization’s commitment to the scouts will help define your organization’s liability were a future claim to arise.

Consider the responses below to some commonly asked questions before or as you interact with the BSA:

Should our organization sponsor a BSA troop?

Organizations that sponsor local scout troops through charter agreements agree to a number of activities that explicitly require the organization to promote scouting and to actively participate and manage the structure and success of the local troop. In exchange for sponsoring the local scout troop, the BSA provides resources including camping opportunities, leadership resources and limited liability protection were someone to become injured from the troop’s activities.

In terms of risk analysis, the key to this agreement is that it places responsibility for scout activities on the organization, and this contract is what connects the organization to any claims for abuse alleged to have been caused by the leadership of the local scout troop. That tether may be just enough of a connection to allow a jury to assess some fault on the organization.

As your organization debates whether to enter into or continue its charter of the local scout troop, reflect on the following:

  1. Is your organization capable of managing its charter responsibilities?
  2. To what extent does the charter enhance or subtract from your own mission?
  3. Can you devote the resources necessary to fulfill your charter responsibilities or should you use those resources elsewhere in support of your mission?
  4. What financial and reputational risks will your organization accept in exchange for the benefits of the charter?
  5. Are there alternate methods to support local scouting without signing a charter?

Should our organization cancel a current charter?

As explained above, sponsoring a local scout troop must be a purposeful and active decision based on the ministry of your organization, the risks the organization is willing to assume and the benefits the organization will receive from the charter.

Who can help our organization with this decision?

Securing advice from legal counsel can help your organization weigh the benefits of a charter against the reputational and financial risks you are accepting by entering into the agreement.

Is there a way to support the scouts without entering into a charter?

Many organizations allow local scout troops to use their facilities as a good-will offering. To the extent that your organization wants to provide a place for the scouts to meet — without payment of rent — we recommend memorializing the arrangement through a facility use agreement.

Where can our organization find a facility use agreement?

We provide many resources, including a sample facility use agreement —“Guidelines for Outside Users of Your Church Facilities,” on our SafeChurch website. If your organization chooses to use a facility use agreement, its interaction with the scouts should follow that agreement. Keep in mind that your organization should not provide additional sponsorship or promotion of the scouting activities held at your facility if the arrangement is through a facility use agreement.

How do we prevent our organization from future BSA litigation?

While eliminating all risk of litigation is unlikely, the easiest way to avoid any future BSA litigation is to restrict involvement between your organization and the BSA or any local scout troop. However, if your organization remains committed to supporting scouts, we recommend providing the scouts a place to meet through a facility use agreement.

If your organization commits to chartering a local scout troop, your organization’s leaders should devote time and resources to ensuring the BSA, its leaders and the scouts fulfill their respective obligations under the charter agreement.

Additionally, we encourage your organization’s leaders to create and follow a comprehensive abuse prevention plan. Though a plan will not eliminate all litigation, following the plan will serve as a good defense. We discuss this and other issues in our child safety e-book and on our Abuse Prevention page.

 

Filed under Church
Brian Gleason

Brian Gleason

Senior Risk Manager

Brian Gleason is a Senior Risk Manager at GuideOne Insurance, providing resources and consulting services to GuideOne clients. His goal is to keep his clients' valuable resources focused on their mission.

Prior to his career at GuideOne, Brian spent 20 years in risk management, disaster preparedness, and occupational health and safety for a university in southern California. He has responded to a wide variety of crises including earthquakes, building floods, bomb threats, and chemical spills. He has his MBA and is a Certified School Risk Manager with years of experience consulting with churches and non-profits in insurance, enterprise risk management, human resources issues, and emergency management.

© 2021 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.