Girl Scouts Targeted by Catholic Bishops
In February, the Girl Scouts made headlines when Indiana Representative Bob Morris wrote an open letter to his fellow representatives asking them not to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America. In the letter, Morris accused the organization of “sexualizing young girls.” He further stated that “Liberal progressive troop-leaders will indoctrinate the girls in their troop according to the principles of Planned Parenthood.” Leaders of the organization remain firm that the Girl Scouts of America takes a neutral stance on issues of sexuality and birth control and are not in partnership with Planned Parenthood.
The Girl Scouts have come under scrutiny again, this time at the hands of Catholic bishops who are concerned the group aligns with policies and influential aid groups that go against Catholic teachings. David Crary, an Associated Press National Writer, states the case as such: “At issue are concerns about program materials that some Catholics find offensive, as well as assertions that the Scouts associate with other groups espousing stances that conflict with church teaching. The Scouts, who have numerous parish-sponsored troops, deny many of the claims and defend their alliances.”
The bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth will conduct the investigation, trawling through a wide variety of program materials and liaisons that the Catholic Church finds problematic in order to make requests about changing the materials.
According to the Girls Scouts of America website, “Girl Scouting helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to other with increasing understanding, skill, and respect; develop values to guide their actions and provide the foundation for sound decision-making; and contribute to the improvement of society through their abilities, leadership skill, and cooperation with others.”
This inclusive, cooperative message may just be the central tension between the Catholic church and the often flexible Girl Scouts Organization. This past fall, a transgender girl joined one troop, while the organization as a whole has been willing to amend program materials to avoid giving offense to members.
Girls Scouts of America is a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, an association that often promotes sexual education for young girls, according to the Associated Press. Critics fear that Girl Scouts of America might have associations with Doctors without Borders and Oxfam, which both provide information about emergency contraception and family planning.
The biggest fear expressed by bishops and critics alike is that somehow associations such as Oxfam and WAGGGS that promote sexual health education will somehow inundate Girl Scout troop meetings and materials, affecting the children. It seems a difficult price to pay for the Girl Scouts of America to have to account for all of the materials produced by allies or contacts on the global scale. The leadership simply does not have the resources to oversee which materials Oxfam or Doctors without Borders produce within their own organizations.
Furthermore, even when WAGGGS and Oxfam do produce materials, it does not necessarily mean that those materials will feature in any troop meetings or organizational structures.
The Girl Scouts of America stands by its belief that young girls can be from any religious background, unlike their Christian counterpart, the American Heritage Girls, a group which has strict guidelines for inclusion. This organization signed a pact of mutual support with the Boy Scouts of America a few years ago. Girl Scouts of America continues to stand by its inclusive message despite the rash of criticism from religious groups, including this most recent plan to investigate troop practices and affiliations.