(March 19) -- On its 100th anniversary, the Boy Scouts of America doesn't have much time to celebrate.
The scouting group is defending its name against allegations that it knew of extensive abuse within its local chapters and did nothing to stop it. For decades, the national organization has quietly amassed hundreds of claims of sexual abuse by its troop leaders and staff in a set of secret documents known within the Boy Scouts as "the perversion files."
The files were brought to light in a civil trial against Timur Dykes, a former troop leader in Oregon who has admitted to committing sexual abuse. A 37-year-old man is suing Dykes for abuse that occurred in the 1980s. And now it's clear the secret "perversion files" may soon be public.
When the trial began Wednesday, Kelly Clark, a lawyer for the plaintiff, showed up in court with 1,000 of the secret files. The attorney said he plans to use them in the next few weeks to prove that the Boy Scouts covered up years of abuse to protect the Boy Scout brand, even allowing known sex offenders to continue to serve as troop leaders.
The Associated Press reports that after reciting the Boy Scout oath, which includes a promise to be "morally straight," Clark said he planned to use the files to demonstrate "how the Boy Scouts of America broke that oath."
"The Boy Scouts of America actually set back the child abuse prevention movement in this country, held it back, because of their secrecy," Clark said in court Wednesday.
But the Boy Scouts of America says the files were being used to help prevent abuse. Charles Smith, a lawyer for the organization, said "they were trying to do the right thing by trying to track these folks." According to the AP, Smith said the files were kept secret because they "were replete with confidential information."
But in the past decade, dozens of cases accusing local troop leaders of abuse have been brought to trial.
Wednesday, as lawyers made their opening statements in Oregon, a California Cub Scouts den leader was arrested after police suspected him of possessing child pornography.
But if the files show the national organization was negligent in reporting abuse -- or worse, systematically hid the abuse from authorities -- the Boy Scout brand could be more severely tarnished.
Patrick Boyle, who wrote a book about sex abuse within the Boy Scouts, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the trial "can only erode what they have been doing for 100 years."
According to Clark, the secret files may detail cases of abuse from as far back as the 1920s.
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