Boy Scouts of America shamed

Paul Theroux was right when he said today in the Opinion pages of The New York Times, in his article titled, ‘Troop therapy’, “SOME pizza deliverymen are safe drivers, and though it seems incredible given the recent news to the contrary, some clergymen are pious, some politicians monogamous and some car dealers honest. There are ethical Boy Scout masters, too. Yet nothing is so satisfying to the lazy mind as news that reinforces a negative stereotype.”

Boy Scouts of America, FlagBoy

However this week’s landmark case awarding sexually abused boy scout Kerry Lewis, a further $18.5 million on top of the compensatory damages of $1.4 million awarded on April 13, has serious ethical implications for the organization, and hence to its brand.

Can the Boy Scouts of America withstand the hit? How markedly will this case affect brand perceptions going forward? Is this the end of another American institution?

Here are some facts:
(1) In the period between 1984 and 1992, the BSA was sued no less than 60 times for alleged sex abuse to the tune of more than $16m.
(2) The convicted former assistant scout master was permitted to associate with the scouts after having admitted to a BSA official in 1983 that he had molested 17 boys
(3) The BSA kept documents they jokingly called the “perversion files” that outlined almost 100 years of suspected incidents that were kept under lock and key at the organization’s headquarters in Irving, Texas.

Doesn’t this reek of the superficial demise of the Catholic Church? The problem is that like all products and services, institutions are brands yet they are not governed by the same rules. Society’s ability to survive through hope and trust, somehow exempts community-based brands from extinction. How else can their continued existence be explained?  Ongoing discussion about this would be interesting. Please send your comments!

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