PORTLAND, Ore. - The Boy Scouts of America has long kept an extensive archive of secret documents that chronicle the sexual abuse of young boys by Scout leaders over the years.
The "perversion files," a nickname the Boy Scouts are said to have used for the documents, have rarely been disclosed, but that could change soon in an Oregon courtroom.
The lawyer for a man who was molested in the 1980s by a Scout leader has obtained about 1,000 of the files and is expected to release some of them at a trial that began Wednesday. The lawyer says the files show how the Boy Scouts have covered up abuse for decades.
The files could offer a rare window into how the Boy Scouts have responded to sex abuse by Scout leaders.
At the start of the Oregon trial, attorney Kelly Clark recited the Boy Scout oath and the promise to obey Scout law to be "trustworthy." Then he presented boxes of documents that he said show "how the Boy Scouts of America broke that oath."
He held up file folders he said contained reports of abuse from around the country. He told the jury that keeping them secret may have set back efforts to prevent child abuse nationally. "The Boy Scouts of America ignored clear warning signs that Boy Scouts were being abused," Clark asserted.
Charles Smith, attorney for the national Boy Scouts, said in his opening statement the files were kept secret because they "were replete with confidential information."
He said the files helped national Scouting leaders weed out sex offenders, especially those who may have changed names or moved to join another local Scouting organization.