Brent Wojahn/The OregonianKerry Lewis is suing the Boy Scouts, claiming he turned to drugs and has had life-long problems after an assistant Scoutmaster molested him in 1983 and 1984. He began to tear up during closing arguments Thursday as his attorney described what his life could have been like if he hadn’t been abused.
A Portland attorney compared the Boy Scouts of America to the Roman Catholic Church on Thursday, arguing that the organization reacted in much the same way to cover up decades of child abuse instead of taking steps to protect children.
Attorneys for the Boy Scouts vigorously rejected any comparison with the Catholic Church in closing arguments in a four-week trial over a $29 million suit that has drawn national attention. They argued that the organization did its best to ban suspected pedophiles and was ahead of its time in recognizing the problem.
Kelly Clark, who also represented many abuse victims against the Catholic Church, asked a Multnomah County jury to hold the Boy Scouts responsible for failing to protect one child in particular: a Southeast Portland boy molested by an assistant Scout leader in the early 1980s. Clark said the Scouting organization has known it had a problem with pedophiles as far back as 1925, when it reportedly started compiling secret files on suspected child molesters, yet the Scouts kept the information from parents.
“You need to speak to them in the language that they will understand,” Clark told jurors. “You take those secrets, and you shout them from the rooftop of this courthouse.”
Chuck Smith, an attorney for the Boy Scouts of America, said it’s unfair to compare the Boy Scouts to the Catholic Church, which for decades transferred priests accused of abuse into new parishes. Smith said the Boy Scouts kept files on suspected child molesters solely to ban them from the organization. It’s just that the system didn’t always work flawlessly, Smith said.
“Some mistakes were made,” Smith said. “There’s no question about it. We’re not perfect. There’s some questionable judgments.”
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By the time you finish reading this, 15 children will have been abused; In the next five minutes, 30 more; Within the next hour, 360 more; And by tonight, close to 8,000+ children will have suffered from abuse, 5 of which will die. Child abuse has increased 134% since 1980 and is now considered a worldwide epidemic. The high jump in child abuse deaths and the shocking increase in statistics highlights the frightening lack of public knowledge.
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