LOPEZ: Do you worry about being labeled intolerant in a day when judges rule that same-sex marriage is a civil-rights issue? What do you tell girls about this?
GARIBAY: American Heritage Girls is very open about what it stands for and the fact that it embraces a biblical worldview. Parents know this before enrolling their daughters, and our charter partners also affirm this. The Bible defines marriage as between a man and a woman. AHG adult volunteers and charter partners affirm this when they sign the AHG Statement of Faith.
LOPEZ: How can you give girls a healthy confidence in the face of a culture that has very different views about women’s health and freedom than you do?
GARIBAY: Again, AHG’s program perspective is from a biblical worldview. Purity is one of the tenets of our creed. Girls who live a pure life will enjoy the rewards of sexuality within marriage, which is what God intended. AHG acknowledges this message is countercultural, but not counter God, and that with self-discipline, girls can achieve a life of purity.
LOPEZ: What does it mean “to raise women of integrity through service to God, family, community, and country”? What responsibility do American Heritage Girls leaders feel to help form a generation of “Christian leaders”?
GARIBAY: AHG volunteers are the most amazing, dedicated people I have ever met. They feel incredibly burdened for girls and the current social mores. They strive to be strong in their faith so that they can model proper, wholesome behaviors for the girls. We are preparing for our national conference. The gathering is amazing, and women and men from all walks of life come to be nourished and encouraged. Their work is so important to building the next generation of leaders and is of eternal significance.
LOPEZ: Where does this leave non-Christians?
GARIBAY: Girls of all faiths are welcomed in American Heritage Girls. We do have Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist girls — not a lot, but some. Their parents know what AHG is about and they have made a cognizant choice in selecting AHG for their daughters.
LOPEZ: When you look at girls in modern American culture, what do you think and how do you hope the leaders you’re forming will help?
GARIBAY: By serving as examples of what God has called women to be — confident yet humble, caring, inquisitive, collaborative, engaged, and relevant.
LOPEZ: Your newsletter recently noted that girls are “wired for intimacy.” That’s something that can lead to a lot of misery in our current culture. Are American Heritage Girls helping with a reordering?
GARIBAY: Yes, we feel we are. Our message is that true self-esteem comes from the acknowledgement that each of us is made in God’s image and that we must first find Him in each other before a relationship begins. These are important concepts that seem simple but make a world of difference, changing the paradigm and the discussion.
LOPEZ: The American Heritage Girls offer social-media guidance. What’s your advice for parents of girls on this front?
GARIBAY: They will engage, so there is no use forbidding it. But girls must be instructed on correct use and the perceptions and misperceptions that can occur by misuse or overuse. It is just a means of communication, not a relationship, and should never be seen as a replacement for relationship building.
LOPEZ: Why have a pro-life patch? Is that getting needlessly political?
GARIBAY: The Respect Life Patch reinforces our organization’s commitment to honoring life from conception to natural death. American Heritage Girls is built on a biblical worldview — the view that life begins at conception, as God “wove us in our mother’s womb.” The issue of life is not a political issue. It is a moral issue and affects the hearts and minds of all youth.
LOPEZ: How can a transition to American Heritage Girls be made easy for schools and parishes?
GARIBAY: It happens every day, as most of our members have come from Girl Scouts or were not permitted to join Girl Scouts. There is a learning curve as with anything new, but parishes, churches, and schools are doing it every day with great success and amazing fruits.
LOPEZ: What do you wish everyone could know about the American Heritage Girls?
GARIBAY: That American Heritage Girls is founded on the principles of faith, service, and fun — and that over the last 19 years, the AHG program and its amazing volunteers and partners have helped develop tens of thousands of young leaders who are compassionate, helpful, honest, loyal, perseverant, pure, resourceful, respectful, responsible, and reverent.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.