PR can be a dirty game. It’s no wonder that the term “Public Relations” was coined by Edward Bernays to stand for “propaganda,” a term that had been sullied in its use by the Nazis. What different organizations are willing to do to save face is often scandalous, such as Penn State’s willingness to suppressed Jerry Sandusky’s child-raping in the interests of keep up the culture of football and Penn’s image; such as when the Catholic Church hid and protected many of its pedophilic priests from facing charges from police; and such as what has now been reported by the Los Angeles Times, who reviewed 1,600 confidential files of the Boy Scouts of America, which found the exact same pattern: hundreds of cases of child molestation and child rape by scout leaders had been hidden, glossed over, or suppressed.
The files are from 1970 to 1991 and are called by the Scouts the “perversion files.” To protect the public image of the Boy Scouts, hundreds of suspected and confirmed child molestations had been hidden, and the molester’s tracks hidden. Though some of the offending leaders were asked to willfully resign, giving their own bogus reason ranging from “chronic brain dysfunction” to obligations at a Shakespeare festival, some of these leaders persisted, returning to the organization to continue their crimes.
“In about 400 of those cases — 80% — there is no record of Scouting officials reporting the allegations to police. In more than 100 of the cases, officials actively sought to conceal the alleged abuse or allowed the suspects to hide it,” said the Times.
The reason for the PR confidentiality is explained in a 1972 policy that unfit leaders were to be removed confidentially “because of misunderstandings which could develop if it were widely distributed.”
The rationalization the organization gave was that by keeping mum, the kids who had been victimized would be saved from public attention. However, it is just as true that having their attackers publicly condemned could help them in the healing process.
Many of these cases expose abject hypocrisy. A case in 1987 in Washington State involves a man who had been convicted of child molestation, but wasn’t blacklisted “because he has done so much for camp and is a nice guy.”
One pernicious case involved Arthur W. Humphries, who had worked with disabled boys in Chesapeake, Va. He was arrested in 1984 for serial child molestation, and the scouts claimed nobody suspected it. However, the officials had in fact received detailed accounts and testimony of Humphries repeatedly performing oral sex on a 12 year old and requesting the same in return. The Scouts did not report this to the police, but instead gave him a glowing job recommendation for another Scout’s post:
“I believe the attached letters of recommendation of the newspaper write-up will give you a well rounded picture of Art. If selected, I am sure that he would add much to he handicapped awareness at the 1981 Jamboree.”
He went on to molest five more boys and was finally convicted of abusing 20 Boy Scouts — the youngest 8-years-old — and was given a 151 year prison sentence. One of the early victims had later become an accomplice, and the two joined together in molesting boys at Humphries’ home.
The release of these incriminating files has put the Boy Scouts in the same light as officials at Penn State and in the Catholic Church, who have institutionalized the protection of child-molesters for the sake of good PR. During one painful overlap, a boy in 1971 was found to have been forced to perform oral sex on assistant troop leader William Lazzaraschi. Lazzaraschi was expelled, but without the pesky business of calling the police. Meanwhile, the boy was given counseling “with positive results” by Rev. Edmond C Micarelli, the camp’s Catholic Chaplain.
“Upon Father Micarelli’s recommendation, the parents were not notified,” a report explains. The reasoning behind the silence may be that Micarelli was later himself charged with raping numerous boys — he was part of a 2002 trial that involved 10 other priests and awarded $13.5 million to 36 victims.
The widespread and consistent abuse in the Scouts echoes the nightmare the Catholic Church has given us, and exposes the danger groups have in selling their own soul to keep a good front.