Michael Johnson, the former youth protection officer for the Boy Scouts of America, is calling for a congressional investigation into the organization. Johnson, a criminal investigator specializing in sex crimes, was hired in 2010 to recommend policies to prevent sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts. However, he encountered barriers from higher-ups at the organization and its religious partners, the Catholic church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Boy Scouts of America had a history of failing to address the issue of sexual abuse, as evidenced by the existence of “ineligible volunteer files” or “perversion files” containing the names of known sexual abusers dating back to at least 1919. Survivors of abuse within the organization have come forward, recounting their experiences and the burden of shame they carried.
In 2020, the Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection due to the changing civil statutes of limitations for sex crimes. This led to a flood of potential litigation, with 82,209 men filing claims against the organization, making it the largest case of child sexual abuse involving a single organization in US history. The organization has since exited bankruptcy and is working towards a $2.46 billion settlement with the claimants.
Johnson has emerged as a whistleblower, advocating for more changes within the Boy Scouts beyond compensation. He believes that a congressional investigation is necessary to understand why so many cases of abuse occurred and to prevent future incidents. The documentary “Scouts Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America” sheds light on the vulnerabilities of youth scouts to abuse, including the lack of screening for potential volunteers and the code of silence within the organization.
The Boy Scouts of America’s history of rampant homophobia, only opening up its ranks to gay members in 2013, further contributed to the silence and shame surrounding abuse. Survivors who participated in the documentary spoke of lifelong anger and the profound stigma associated with male sexual abuse.
Johnson’s call for a congressional investigation aims to address the systemic issues within the Boy Scouts of America and ensure the safety of its young members.