Politics & Policy

Girls Reclaim Their Heritage

Scouting for a reclaiming of innocence

‘Bobby identifies as a girl, and he’s a boy,” a Denver mother told a TV station in a news story about her son, who has been accepted as a Girl Scout.

“He’s been doing this since he was about two years old. He’s loved girl stuff, so we just let him dress how he wants, as long as he’s happy,” she explained.

When she first approached the Girl Scouts’ local troop leader about joining, the answer was pretty sensible: But he’s a boy.

But what’s sensible is not always politically correct, so the troop leader subsequently got a talking-to. “Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in kindergarten through twelfth grade as members,” the Girl Scouts of Colorado declared. The statement continued: “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout. . . . In this case, an associate delivering our program was not aware of our approach.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado is a sponsor of the Girl Scouts of Colorado’s centennial celebration next year.

As the Girl Scout cookie continues to crumble, my heart goes out to Bobby — although being a Girl Scout may only contribute to his confusion.

But his membership may send a clear message to the rest of us. The Girl Scouts today are nothing like the Do-si-do image most Americans have of them. Local decisions about genderless scouting are the tip of the iceberg. To educate parents about the ideological ties of the 21st-century Girl Scouts, Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International, has put together a website with questions for parents and others to ask about the Girl Scouts. Part of what bothers Slater and other Girl Scout critics is the connection between every troop and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, whose radical agenda, it is safe to say, may not reflect the values of all the families in your local troop.

But the questionable associations do not end there. Christy Volanski, whose two daughters have quit the Girl Scouts, asks me, “Are Girl Scout parents aware that GSUSA is a member of the National Collaboration for Youth (NCY) and that NCY’s home page sends girls to NCY’s Spark Action project for youth, which promotes the ‘We had an Abortion’ campaign, Medical Students for Choice, and Catholics for Choice?” NCY’s chair is a former CEO of the Girl Scouts. A look at the speakers and entertainment at the recent GSUSA convention in Houston indicates the kind of values the national organization is most comfortable with, which move beyond the “traditional” gender model, as its website explains. Like many a self-identified women’s-leadership organization, the Girl Scouts have become all too comfortable in their connections to abortion advocates and other “progressive” organizations.

Slater’s campaign, however, is not a war against the Girl Scouts. “We would love for the Girl Scouts to return to what most people believe they are — an organization focused on developing girls with strong moral character.”

But for those who don’t want to be mixed up with all that the Girl Scouts have become, a group called American Heritage Girls has stepped into the breach. Established in 1995 in Cincinnati, AHG has 15,000 members in 42 states and four countries. The AH Girls have uniforms and badges, and sell products decided upon on at the local level.

“I believe that character development needs to be based on timeless truths, not on cultural norms,” says Patti Garibay, national executive director of American Heritage Girls. “I believe the standards of behavior for humans are clearly defined by their Maker through the words of the Bible. I also believe that because each of us is made in the image of God, we have an incredible ability to achieve, to be creative, and to change the world, because of His grace.”

When Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912, Garibay reflects, she “encouraged girls to be faith filled and outward focused. . . . Many have felt that today’s Girl Scouts have strayed from that mission.” Garibay began AHG when the Girl Scouts made God optional in their pledge. AHG “is not for everyone,” she acknowledges, “but it is for a lot of families seeking a faith-based scout-type program that builds women of integrity while instilling eternal values.” AHG is “transparent about who they are,” she says, “and feel it important for parents to know everything there is to know about any organization they choose for their child. AHG is relevant, fun, and a great value. It is changing lives for the better; our families are very pleased with their involvement.”

And the Girls are partners for the Boys. The American Heritage Girls, it turns out, have a lot more in common with the Boy Scouts of America than the Girl Scouts do. In 2009, the Boy Scouts of America issued a “Memorandum of Mutual Support” regarding the American Heritage Girls. Garibay explains: “Like the BSA, AHG is owned and operated by its charter partners, coming alongside faith groups and families to bring positive values to girls. Like the BSA, AHG is faith-based, realizing a duty to God is of utmost importance to the full development of a child.”

The George Washington Bridge connecting New York and New Jersey is lighted in green this month in honor of the 100th anniversary of the GSUSA, but the color may more accurately suggest that the time is ripe to scout for something different. Something that honors the reason the Girl Scouts were established and what most cookie consumers assume they still stand for. Something that doesn’t facilitate confusion about who is a boy and who is a girl. Something true.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.


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