Re: Boy Scout Units Chartered by Local United Methodist Churches

Re: Boy Scout Units Chartered by Local United Methodist Churches

August 24, 2021

Dear Iowa United Methodists: 

We write this letter with heavy hearts. 

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is overwhelmed with potential liability exposure from sexual assault allegations nationwide. The BSA has filed for bankruptcy protection. Under both of the proposed plans that the BSA has suggested as a way to continue after the bankruptcy, they are leaving their Chartered Organizations out on a limb by themselves. The Chartered Organizations are the local churches, schools, and civic groups that sponsor or host a Scout Troop, Pack, Crew, or other unit. The details of these plans are still being played out, but the BSA is placing all of our United Methodist churches who have ever been involved in scouting in a very difficult position. 

Despite their consistent past assurances that they held enough insurance to cover their chartered organizations in case of injured scouts, we now know that the BSA did not have enough or sufficient insurance. The local churches are at risk of having to pay significant sums to victims to compensate them for the damages they suffered at the hands of some scout leaders. In addition, the local churches will have to pay for the cost of their own attorneys to defend those claims. All of this is because the BSA did not fulfill their promise to have enough insurance to protect the local churches. 

Future Relationship with the BSA 
We are recommending that local churches change their relationship with their scouting units. 

If your local church currently charters a scout unit, we recommend that you NOT renew that chartering agreement when it is up for renewal or re-chartering this fall. Instead, we recommend one of two options, the choice of which is up to you. 

  1. Tell the local scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will only extend the current agreement until December 31, 2021.
  2. Tell the local scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will enter into a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021. This will act similar to a lease allowing the scout unit to use your space, but they will be responsible for everything else, including the selection of leaders. A proposed agreement accompanies this letter.

After December 31, 2021, we should be in a better position to see how the future will unfold. Once a BSA plan is approved by the bankruptcy court, we will know better how to proceed. 

If your local church does not charter a scout unit at this time, we recommend that you NOT consider chartering a unit until the bankruptcy case is finalized and we have an understanding of how the United Methodist relationship with scouts will continue in the future. 

We understand that these suggestions are dramatic, but we think them to be the prudent course of action at this time. We want to protect our local churches from costly litigation. 

Final Thoughts 
Scouting has played a very large role in the mission and ministry of the United Methodist Church for a very long time. But the BSA is not proving faithful to the United Methodist Church as they are leaving us without the protections that they promised. We simply cannot continue the relationship with the BSA as it has existed in the past. Until we know how the BSA will be organized and operate in the future, we must make some changes. Hopefully, we will be able to continue our long connection with scouting in some way, but we need to make some changes today to help prevent us from being dragged down with the BSA in the future. 

If you receive any communication from a local scout council for the BSA advising or encouraging you to contact BSA counsel, please report that at once to John Moorlach, Conference Chancellor. His email is moorlach@whitfieldlaw.com and direct phone number is 515-246-5501. Please do not contact any BSA attorney regarding the BSA bankruptcy without consulting your own local church attorney or contacting John. 

With God's Blessing, 

Laurie Haller
Bishop Laurie Haller, Iowa Area
The United Methodist Church 

Margaret Biggs
Treasurer/Director of Administrative Services
Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

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