FIRST-PERSON: Not your mom's Girl Scouts

DALLAS (BP)--Did you get your Girl Scout cookies this year? Those delectable Thin Mints, those yummy Do-Si-Dos, the melt-in-your mouth Tagalongs. Ya' know, they say these treats no longer contain trans fats. Perhaps the cookies are more wholesome than they were when I sold them oh-so-many years ago. But the national organization that promotes their sale, the Girl Scouts of the USA, is not.

Pro-family Americans have admired the Boy Scouts' unwavering opposition -- even under intense pressure -- to get the organization to permit homosexuals to be scoutmasters. The Boy Scouts of America has stood firm against the politically correct forces that would move the organization off its current mission in training boys to be men of character, faith and high moral standards. But the story of the Girl Scouts is quite different.

This is a very touchy subject among Girl Scout leaders and parents of Girl Scouts who are conservative and who avoid the feminist "girl power" agenda that's pervasive throughout the national program. The local troop leaders and area councils have tremendous influence on the character and direction of their groups. But the national organization is no longer the character-focused morally uplifting pillar of society it once was.

The Boy Scouts has refused, despite intense pressure, to drop any reference to God from its oath. But, in 1993, the Girl Scout Promise was revised to make God optional. And even earlier, in 1972, the Girls Scouts removed "loyalty" from their oath, claiming it was outmoded.

Patti Garibay, a former Girl Scout and longtime leader, recruiter, troop director, and council delegate observed with dismay as the national leadership of the Girl Scouts consciously downplayed the organization's traditional emphasis on the role of God in America's heritage. Garibay eventually withdrew from the Girl Scouts, turning her energy and talents toward the formation in 1995 of a new scouting organization, American Heritage Girls (www.ahgonline.org) that now has some 6,000 members with 1,200 leaders in 32 states. Garibay's last Christmas as a Girl Scouts troop leader confirmed her decision to leave: She learned, she said, that singing Christmas carols as a troop would be technically illegal because of a rule prohibiting the singing of hymns.

The Girl Scouts' emphasis on "girl power" has its roots in feminist ideology, which gained an early foothold in the organization. In 1977, radical feminist Betty Friedan, who was on the Girl Scouts Board of Directors, used that platform to proclaim her support of the Equal Rights Amendment. The national organization proceeded to take the liberal feminist position on issue after issue. It supports Title IX, which mandates gender equity in school-funded sports, and backs affirmative action in recruiting, hiring and promoting.

The GSUSA officially supports gun control and was represented in the Million Mom March. Victimization and the "crisis" of girls are stressed in scout literature. Girl Scout badges include "Domestic Violence Awareness" and, of course, "Girl Power." Writing for Concerned Women for America, cultural observer Bob Knight said, "Some years ago, the Girl Scouts began purging materials of positive references to homemakers. Instead of being family-centered, the group now promotes 'girl empowerment,' with programs that focus heavily on a narcissistic devotion to self, but then steered into collective action for liberal causes, such as environmentalism. (Contrast this to American Heritage Girls' "strong emphasis on servitude.")

Certainly the Girl Scouts encourage involvement in a number of worthy endeavors. And leaders' discretion guides activity and program decisions at the troop and council level. However, parents of those sweet little Brownies and lovely young scouts need to understand that Planned Parenthood has gained a strong foothold in the Girl Scouts. Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest abortion provider and its sex education programs give abstinence short shrift in favor of condoms and other forms of birth control.

The Girl Scouts' original forays into sex education were not without opposition. In 1975, one Catholic archdiocese expressed its disapproval of the organization's sex ed program by pulling its support. Since that time council and troop leaders have brought their beliefs to bear on the sexual messages presented to Girl Scouts in various areas of the country. But in 1989, a program titled "Decisions for Your Life: Preventing Teenage Pregnancy" was implemented. One of the program's stated goals was that "with the help of community resource consultants, sex education will be a program component of the Girl Scouts." In some places, these community resource consultants ended up being Planned Parenthood. In fact, in a 2004 interview with NBC News, Girl Scouts CEO Kathy Cloninger stated, "We have relationships ... with Planned Parenthood organizations across the country, to bring information-based sex education programs to girls."

The national Girl Scouts organization has been criticized for including on its website a link to Planned Parenthood's graphic site for teens and for endorsing a book for young children called "It's Perfectly Normal" that provides amoral descriptions for young children regarding homosexuality and masturbation.

Perhaps the starkest contrast between the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts is the way homosexuality is addressed. In 1980, the Girl Scouts changed their guidelines on homosexuality. The organization adopted a "non-discrimination" policy, making clear it would thereafter welcome lesbians, either as scouts or as troop leaders. In fact, a 1997 book entitled, "On My Honor: Lesbians Reflect on their Scouting Experience," is filled with stories of homosexual encounters in the Girl Scouts and a statement by a former Girl Scout administrator that about one third of the Girl Scouts' paid professional staff are lesbians.

When it comes to scouting, there is now a choice for girls and their families who realize that the Girl Scouts of America is not your mother's Girl Scouts.


Penna Dexter is a board of trustee member with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a conservative activist and an announcer on the syndicated radio program "Life on the Line" (information available at www.lifeontheline.com). She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a co-host of "Jerry Johnson Live," a production of Criswell Communications. She formerly was a co-host of Marlin Maddoux's "Point of View" syndicated radio program.

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