Here’s Why Christians Are Choosing To Leave The Girl Scouts

Here’s Why Christians Are Choosing To Leave The Girl Scouts

Contrary to the Left’s recycled narrative, this is not a matter of conservatives enlisting little girls in the culture war. It's of positive fidelity to key virtues.
Margot Cleveland
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It sure is easy to get confused these days. One moment #Resistance against offensive politics and policies is brave. Bold. Daring. The next? “That is crazy talk.

At least that’s the charge leveled when conservatives resist liberal policies, such as when the archbishop of Kansas City, Joseph Naumann, announced last week that the Archdiocese had decided to end its relationship with the Girl Scouts of America. As he put it:

To follow Jesus and his Gospel will often require us to be counter-cultural. With the promotion by Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) of programs and materials reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture, they are no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and the values of the Gospel.

Instead, parishes in the Archdiocese of Kansas City will partner with American Heritage Girls, a Christian organization and a “much better fit for our parishes,” according to the Statement issued by the Archbishop.

The response from the Left? “Pedophile priests.” I kid you not. Here’s the opener from Hemant Mehta’s piece at Patheos, ridiculing the archbishop’s decision to transition parishes from the Girl Scouts to American Heritage Girls: “The Archdiocese of Kansas City (in Kansas) is finally taking action against the people who routinely ignore the Catholic Church’s stated values. So say goodbye to all those pedophile priests.” Well, not really, he explains, say goodbye instead to the Girl Scouts.

What a clever ad hominem attack! I’ve never heard that one before. Well, not really.

But besides his well-trodden ad hominem attack, the author thought “it’s worth noting that American Heritage Girls, the Christian alternative to Girl Scouts that the Archdiocese is now supporting, asks little girls to pledge to be celibate until marriage and to never, ever be a lesbian.” Now that line might merit a snark badge, but definitely not one for honesty.

American Heritage Girls Aims to Teach Christian Virtues

Unlike the scouts, the American Heritage Girls doesn’t seek to sexualize young girls—it aims to instill Christian values and virtues. Thus, according to its webpage, girls recite this creed at the beginning of meetings.

Mehta seems to have confused the little girls’ creed with the Statement of Faith that the adult leaders make, which includes affirming a belief that “God calls us to lives of purity, service, stewardship, and integrity,” where purity for the organization means “reserving sexual activity to the sanctity of marriage, a lifelong commitment before God between a man and a woman.”

Maybe the archbishop is on to something. Maybe an organization which seeks to instill Christian virtues and values, and hold up role models committed to lives of purity, is a better fit for Catholic girls than, say, a secular organization—like the Girl Scouts—which holds up Margaret Sanger as a hero.

Unfortunately the Patheos piece wasn’t a one-off. Kansas City Star columnist Mary Sanchez also had vapors over the archbishop’s decision—one she attributes to the “girl” in the Girl Scouts. Here’s her take:

“Boy Scouts, interestingly, has not fallen under equal scrutiny, despite opening the organization to transgender youth in January. There is a crucial difference. Boys. Not girls. No innocent budding feminists to shield from hearing from the wrong women about a complicated world that too often subjugates women to second-class status.”

No, the crucial difference is the timing. The Boy Scouts decision came out in January. The Archdiocese has been evaluating concerns over the Girl Scouts since 2007, and during that ten-year period it consulted with youth ministry leaders, parents, Girl Scout representatives, and lay Church leaders. Could you imagine the outrage had the Archdiocese immediately terminated its relationship with the Girls Scouts in 2007 when the first complaints rolled in? But fear not, Ms. Sanchez: as the Boy Scouts slide down the slippery slope of secularism, religious sponsors will be reconsidering that partnership too.

The Girl Scouts Are Tied To ‘Reproductive Rights’ Efforts

Of course, blaming Catholics for the “subjugation of women” wasn’t Sanchez’s only angle. She also took aim at Ann Saladin, a “mother of five (soon to be six)”—the relevance of that fact is unclear—who runs a website called mygirlscoutcouncil.com.  Saladin’s website highlights the relationship between the Girl Scouts of America and the promotion of abortion and birth control.  Sanchez dismisses the connections showcased on mygirlscoutcouncil.com as six degrees removed from reality.

But they aren’t. The Girl Scouts of America contributes more than $1 million dollars each year in unrestricted funds—that is money that can be used for any reason—to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. And that association uses its funds to promote and advocate for girls’ so-called “sexual and reproductive rights.” I know math is hard, but that’s hardly six degrees of separation.

The archbishop was right to find such financial support objectionable.  But that wasn’t the archbishop’s only rationale. He also noted the sexually-explicit and age-inappropriate materials designed for the Girl Scouts and the organization’s history of praising female “role models” who stand in stark contravention of Catholic principles. Then there is the Girl Scouts’ position that its troops should treat boys suffering from gender dysphoria as girls. All valid reasons for the archbishop to opt to transition to the American Heritage Girls.

Nonetheless, critics blame Archbishop Naumann’s decision on “certain activist organizations … falsely maligning one of the world’s most long-standing” organizations, by stressing that “[n]owhere does the organization Girl Scouts of the USA take a position on abortion or birth control.”

You saw this same defense floated five years ago when some D.C.-area parishes decided to disassociate with the Girl Scouts.  At the time, Mary Rice Hasson obliterated that fake news, writing:

“[W]hile it’s true that the Scouts say they take no official position on birth control and abortion, it’s what they do that’s a problem. Numerous sources — including former Girl Scouts, Scout leaders, and pro-life leaders — have documented hundreds of examples of the Girl Scouts promoting pro-abortion and LGBT resources, recommending sexually explicit books and movies, highlighting pro-abortion leaders and lesbians as role models, partnering with LGBT and pro-abortion activist groups, including Planned Parenthood, and referring girls to pro-abortion organizations to learn about ‘advocacy’ (a pet word in the new Girl Scouts).”

This Schism Shows What The Girl Scouts Should Be

However, there is one glimmer of truth underlying this latest skirmish: It is the nature of the Girl Scouts that has laid the ground work for the schism of recent years. As Sanchez explained, as a hundred-year old “secular organization, Girl Scouting has long been flexible about the changing needs of young women around the globe. Programming and emphasis can shift troop to troop, with local dictates, individual scouts and their leaders making choices.”

But much has changed in our culture since the Girl Scouts’s founding in 1912. Back then, all Christian faiths taught that birth control, abortion, premarital sex, and homosexual sex were immoral. Today’s world is much different, which is why you see Catholics connecting better with American Heritage Girls. Or as one Kansas City mother put it in celebrating Archbishop Naumann’s decision:

“An explicitly Christian scouting group, like American Heritage Girls, is simply a better fit for the Catholic Church. AHG promotes character, independence, life skills and virtue without the added baggage of an agenda that, in my view and the view of the Catholic Church, harms women.”

Contrary to the Left’s recycled narrative, this response is not a matter of conservatives enlisting little girls in the culture war. It is resisting the culture.

But I guess resistance only merits celebration when it consists of the liberal kind—pointless posing with pussy hats and pee-ins. That’s okay, though: Conservatives have come to accept that double standards are just the way the Trefoils crumble.

Margot Cleveland is a lawyer, CPA, and adjunct professor for the University of Notre Dame. Cleveland can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @ProfMJCleveland.

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