The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday.
The organization has been barraged by hundreds of sex-abuse lawsuits.
The intention is that a potentially mammoth victim compensation plan can be worked out that will allow the hallowed, 110-year-old organization to continue.
The Chapter 11 filing in federal bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware, sets in motion what could be one of the biggest, most complex bankruptcies ever seen.
Scores of lawyers are seeking settlements on behalf of several thousand men who say they were molested as scouts by scoutmasters or other leaders decades ago, but are only now eligible to sue because of recent changes in their states’ statute-of-limitations laws.
By going to bankruptcy court, the Scouts can put those lawsuits on hold for now. But ultimately they could be forced to sell off some of their vast property holdings, including campgrounds and hiking trails, to raise money for a compensation fund that could surpass a billion dollars.
“Scouting programs will continue throughout this process and for many years to come," said Evan Roberts, a spokesman for the Scouts. ”Local councils are not filing for bankruptcy because they are legally separate and distinct organizations.""
The bankruptcy represents a painful turn for an organization that has been a pillar of American civic life for generations and a training ground for future leaders.
Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout has long been a proud accomplishment that politicians, business leaders, astronauts and others put on their resumes and in their official biographies.
The number of youths taking part in scouting has dropped below 2 million, down from more than 4 million in peak years of the 1970s.
Amid the crush of lawsuits, the Scouts recently mortgaged the major properties owned by the national leadership, including the headquarters in Irving, Texas, and the 140,000-acre Philmont Ranch in New Mexico, to help secure a line of credit.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.