Local UMCs urged to take ‘urgent action’ regarding potential Scouting liability
The South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church released a call last month for local UMCs that operate or have ever operated Scouting units to take steps immediately to address potential liability from future sexual abuse claims filed against the Boy Scouts of America.
Every church that is now or has ever been a BSA “chartered organization” is encouraged to file what is known as a “proof of claim.”
The call for information was communicated Nov. 2 by the conference.
Per Conference Chancellor Kay Crowe, church leaders were strongly encouraged to read the below statement carefully and submit their basic information to the law firm named below no later than Nov. 9 to give attorneys enough time to meet a Nov. 16 court filing deadline.
“It is too early to tell how the claims of chartered organizations will be addressed and what types of protections they will be provided with respect to any abuse claims that may be asserted,” Crowe said.
Questions about the process can be directed to her at [email protected].
In the conference’s release, it said, “Many South Carolina United Methodist churches have operated Scouting units as an important part of their outreach to the communities in which they do ministry. Tragically, the Boy Scouts of America has been the subject of thousands of sexual abuse claims in recent years. Within that context, the Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy protection.”
The statement church leaders were asked to read
On February 18, 2020, the Boy Scouts of America (“BSA”) and its affiliate, Delaware BSA, LLC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a case styled “In re: Boy Scouts of America and Delaware BSA, LLC,” case no. 20-10343, pending in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. BSA filed its bankruptcy case to address the significant liability it faces from sexual abuse claims asserted (or to be asserted in the future) by Scouts and former Scouts.
BSA, which has numerous affiliated Local Councils, ultimately operates through the organizations authorized to operate scouting units as “Chartered Organizations” pursuant to Charter Agreements between the organizations and Local Councils. Many of the churches in the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church (the “South Carolina Conference”) currently serve or have served as BSA Chartered Organizations.
Historically, BSA has indemnified, reimbursed, insured against, or otherwise covered any sexual abuse claims asserted by Scouts against Chartered Organizations. It is too early in the bankruptcy case to tell how the claims of Chartered Organizations will be addressed and what types of protections Chartered Organizations will be provided with respect to any abuse claims that may be asserted by Scouts in the future.
These important issues likely will be addressed through negotiations in the bankruptcy case among various constituents, including BSA, BSA Local Councils, insurance carriers, personal injury attorneys for sexually abused Scouts, a court-appointed future claimants’ representative, and Chartered Organizations.
The Bar Date, or final deadline, for filing proofs of claim in the BSA bankruptcy case is November 16, 2020. If your church was at any time, or is currently, a Chartered Organization for BSA, it could be named as a defendant in future litigation as the result of its operation of a Scouting unit. Even though such litigation has not yet been – and might never be – filed, your church has what is considered a “contingent and unliquidated” claim against BSA for the as-yet undetermined amount of damages that might be awarded in future Scouting-related abuse claims asserted against your church.
If your church was at any time, or is currently, a BSA Chartered Organization, a proof of claim should be filed in the BSA bankruptcy case with the court-appointed claims agent in order to preserve the church’s claim and protect the church’s rights. If your church is or has been a BSA Chartered Organization, it may lose valuable rights if it fails to file a proof of claim in the BSA bankruptcy case by the November 16, 2020, Bar Date.
To facilitate the proof of claim filing process, the South Carolina Conference has retained the law firm of Barnes, Alford, Stork & Johnson, LLP (“Barnes Alford”) to file proofs of claim on behalf of any United Methodist church in the South Carolina Conference that is or has been a Chartered Organization for BSA. Barnes Alford partner Kay Crowe currently serves as Chancellor of the South Carolina Conference, and her partner Matt Gerrald will be assisting her with this process.
To have Barnes Alford file a contingent and unliquidated proof of claim on your church’s behalf in the BSA bankruptcy case regarding future Scout abuse claims, please e-mail Mr. Gerrald at [email protected] with the following:
The full legal name, address, and phone number of your church;
The name, title, address, phone number, and e-mail address of a contact person for the church;
The BSA Local Council with which your church is or was affiliated and the years of affiliation; and
A statement that Barnes Alford is authorized to file a proof of claim on your church’s behalf and to provide ongoing representation of the church in the BSA bankruptcy proceedings.
Please consider this matter as requiring urgent action and respond by November 9, 2020. If you have any questions about this process, contact Kay Crowe at [email protected] or 803-799-1111.