CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One local Boy Scouts of America council in North Carolina kept track of openly gay young men and leaders, including a gay rabbi in Fayetteville, N.C., in their so-called “perversion files” that were meant to track men accused, suspected or guilty of child abuse.
Some of the files have been released to the public this month in compliance with an Oregon Supreme Court ruling stemming from a 2010 case in which a scoutmaster sexually abused a youth member. In that case, the Scouts were ordered to pay an $18.5 million judgment.
Out of 44 files originating from North Carolina, two individual records separated by a decade reveal officials with Raleigh’s Occoneechee Boy Scout Council, which serves the state’s capital area and surrounding counties, kept an eye out for gay men whom they considered unfit for leadership. The Boy Scouts have a long-standing policy prohibiting leadership or youth membership by “avowed homosexuals.” The U.S. Supreme Court uphold the Scouts’ right to set their own internal policies in 2000. [Ed. Note — This writer was dismissed from the Boy Scout program as a youth member in Winston-Salem, N.C., after he publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation in 2000. He was not a member of a troop chartered under the Occoneechee Council.]
Young camp staffer targeted
In the first file dated to 1969, Occoneechee Council Scout Executive Wallace E. Wood wrote to registration officials at the national council concerning an adult leader who was accused of and admitted to acts of molestation. In the same letter, Wood attempts to alert national officials to a young man he said is gay.
“It seems that one bit of information about such matters leads to another,” Wood wrote. “We have also found one younger man, a nineteen year old by the name of [redacted by this newspaper], who served on our summer camp staff. This young man is not known to have molested any boys but he is reported to be a homosexual and to be seen regularly in the company of other known homosexuals of his age and older.”
National registration and fulfillment service director Howard Boyd responded, “With regard to the other individual, [name redacted by this newspaper], unless you can furnish us with the definite facts regarding homosexual activity, we feel we cannot justify placing him on the confidential file. If you can substantiate these charges, please let us hear from you.”
The young man’s name does not seem to appear in any other files released to the public. An extensive search by this newspaper for any individual by that name involved in the scouting program in North Carolina revealed no further information.
Gay rabbi and parent dismissed
Other records from Raleigh’s Occoneechee Council from 1989 through 1990 reveal officials there prohibited a gay rabbi and parent of a young scout from participating as a leader in his son’s troop.
Rabbi Richard C. Jernigan, now 64 and living in Hope Mills, N.C., attempted to become a leader with his then-11-year-old son’s troop when his son decided to join the Boy Scout program. Jernigan claims today, as he did in several news reports at the time, that his son’s troop required a parent to participate in troop activities.
Troop leaders later rejected Jernigan’s application to become an adult volunteer and contacted officials at the Occoneechee Council in Raleigh who confirmed Jernigan was not eligible for leadership.
Both Jernigan and his son say they are outraged Jernigan’s name made it into the Boy Scouts’ “perversion files.”
“I think this is grounds for a class-action case,” Jernigan told qnotes. “These people have gone to the point of compiling a list and circulating that list that may impede people’s employment or services or assistance or whatever. I think there should be punitive damages leveled against them for doing so.”
Beryl Jernigan, Rabbi Jernigan’s husband, said the Boy Scouts’ treatment of his partner is akin to defamation of character.
Jernigan says he’s not opposed to the confidential file. Keeping youth safe from abuse should be a high priority, he said. Yet, Yosef Jernigan, now 34 years old, said it was a “screwed up” and a “scam” that the Boy Scouts would equate gay men to pedophiles.
Yosef Jernigan never continued through the scouting program after his father was denied a leadership position. He said he was excited to join the Boy Scouts, especially after learning his father had been an Eagle Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow, the organization’s national honor society.
“You give me this book and it says not to judge people and to be a good person, then you turn around and you judge somebody who’s never done anything wrong and you disavow them from being a part of my experience,” Yosef Jernigan said of the scout leaders in his childhood troop.
Today, Yosef Jernigan is a Navy veteran and thinks the Boy Scouts have betrayed American values.
“I took an oath to serve and protect the Constitution,” he said. “I stood in front of the same flag as a scout. We are talking about the right for all humankind, every woman and man, to have their chance and to have security against the tyranny of a bad government, yet we’re teaching children hatred in an organization that is supposed to be freeing the minds of children to do great things.”
Jernigan’s name was entered into the Boy Scouts’ confidential file on March 6, 1990. In describing the incident type which led to the listing, Occoneechee Executive Charles B Hanchey checked a pre-formated box for “homosexual (not specifically with youth).”
qnotes has reached out to current Occoneechee Council CEO John Akerman. He was not available for comment and has not yet returned our phone call.
Other gays targeted
Research into other Boy Scout “perversion files” across the country has revealed several other gay men targeted for exclusion from the organization’s program and later included in the same list as child abusers.
In Seattle, KING 5 News investigators obtained 50 individual records from the scout files. Forty-eight concerned men suspected or guilty of child abuse. Two dealt specifically with gay men who had not been suspected of any inappropriate behavior.
Initially called “perversion files” when the Boy Scouts began keeping them nearly a hundred years ago, the files are officially and collectively known as the “confidential file” or “ineligible volunteer files.” The 20,000 documents and 1,247 individual files released by attorney Kelly Clark in compliance with the court order are dated from 1965 through 1985. Attorney Tim Kosnoff has documented further cases through 1991.