Tag Archives: Girl Scouts

Catholic archbishop seeks to cut ties with Girl Scouts

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson is urging priests to sever ties with the Girl Scouts, saying the organization promotes values “incompatible” with Catholic teachings.

The open letter to priests, scout leaders and other Catholics was posted recently on the archdiocese website. It urges parishes that host Girl Scout meetings to consider alternative programs for girls that are more Catholic- or Christian-based.

“We must stop and ask ourselves — is Girl Scouts concerned with the total well-being of our young women? Does it do a good job forming the spiritual, emotional, and personal well-being of Catholic girls?” Carlson wrote.

The letter stops short of demanding an end to Girl Scout meetings at parishes, a common gathering site in the heavily Catholic St. Louis region. Brian Miller, executive director of the Catholic Youth Apostolate, said Friday that the letter is not meant to pressure priests into pushing out Girl Scouts.

“We’re asking parishes to evaluate and review what they can do to form the faith of young women,” Miller said.

Carlson’s letter said the archdiocese and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have been investigating concerns about the Girl Scouts of the USA and the parent organization, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, for several years.

Carlson worries that contraception and abortion rights are being promoted to Girl Scouts. The letter also said resources and social media “highlight and promote role models in conflict with Catholic values, such as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.” Steinem, 81, is a feminist, journalist and political activist. Friedan, who died in 2006 at age 85, was a feminist and writer.

“In addition, recent concerns about GSUSA and their position on and inclusion of transgender and homosexual issues are proving problematic,” Carlson wrote.

Girl Scouts of the USA said in a statement that it “looks forward to extending our longstanding relationship with faith-based organizations, including the Catholic Church and Catholic communities, throughout the country. As the pre-eminent leadership development organization for girls of every faith and background, we remain committed to building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops began investigating the Girl Scouts of the USA in 2012, not long after lawmakers in Indiana and Alaska publicly called the Scouts into question, and after the organization was berated in a series aired by a Catholic broadcast network.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is particularly powerful in the region given that nearly a quarter of the area’s population — about 520,000 people — is Catholic. Its leaders have never been shy about addressing politically and socially sensitive matters. During the 2004 presidential campaign, then-Archbishop Raymond Burke made national news when he said he would deny communion to Democratic candidate John Kerry, citing his stance on abortion.

Carlson asked each pastor at parishes where Girl Scout meetings occur to meet with troop leaders to review concerns “and discuss implementing alternative options for the formation of our girls.” He said several alternative organizations with Catholic or Christian backgrounds can be offered.

His letter also hinted at increased scrutiny of the Boy Scouts of America.

“While the new BSA leadership policy currently offers some protections to religious organizations, I continue to wonder in which direction this once-trusted organization is now headed,” he wrote.

In December, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the nation’s second-largest Lutheran denomination, ended its official relationship with the Boy Scouts over the organization’s decision to allow openly gay Scout leaders.

Beyonce, Jane Lynch, Condoleezza Rice featured in Girl Scouts ‘Ban Bossy” video

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and the Girl Scouts recently declared a campaign to “Ban Bossy,” complete with Beyonce, Jane Lynch and Condoleezza Rice on video, a website full of tips and thousands of fans who pledged to stamp out that B word for girls.

But the effort is also being questioned on a variety of fronts, including its focus on a word that not everyone considers damaging, and for encouraging a behavior that not everybody believes equals leadership, as Ban Bossy contends.

Harold Koplewicz, who heads the nonprofit Child Mind Institute, went in search of evidence that the word “bossy” discourages girls from becoming leaders. He asked first-graders and sixth-graders at Hunter College Elementary School for gifted children how they feel about it.

Save for a couple of “outliers,” he found that most didn’t love the term bossy, “but they didn’t love the word leader, either.” The kids also told him that acting bossy carries a high risk of not being liked. “They thought that being liked was better than being a leader,” Koplewicz said.

The Ban Bossy campaign cites a study by the Girl Scout Research Institute in which girls reported being twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles would make them seem bossy. The fear of being seen as bossy is put forth as a primary reason girls resist such roles.

Alicia Clark, a Washington, D.C., psychologist whose specialties include parenting and couples counseling, lauded the campaign’s suggested alternatives to bossy and ideas for fostering leadership in girls, but she sees a broader sense of social anxiety at play.

“Girls experience fears and inhibitions about social acceptance more acutely, in the form of stress,” she said. In some cases, “Mean, bossy girls, as my 13-year-old daughter describes them, are closer to being bullies than they are leaders. And we know that bullies fundamentally feel insecure, hate themselves for it and assert themselves over other insecure people as a way of garnering a sense of control and dominance. This is not leadership. This is intimidation.”

Caroline Price, a 17-year-old high school junior in Andover, Mass., loved Sandberg’s book, “Lean In,” and admires many of the women who have jumped on Ban Bossy. “But to me bossy isn’t the same as leadership. Bossy people aren’t people you want to follow. Leaders inspire us to be better versions of ourselves. Bossy means `my way or the highway.’ Leadership is when someone listens and encourages others around them,” she said.

Sometimes, Price added, “leaders aren’t just the loudest – the bossiest. There are different kinds of leaders – and some lead more quietly, or by consensus or by example and so on.”

Like critics of Sandberg’s Lean In movement urging working women to strive for leadership positions, the backlash against Ban Bossy is multifaceted.

Some detractors think girls and women of the bossy ilk should “own” the word rather than demand to be free of it, not unlike the way “queer” has been reclaimed as celebratory among many people who are LGBTQ, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning their sexual identities.

Sandberg, Rice and other celebrity supporters of Ban Bossy recall how being called bossy made them feel diminished as kids and dinged their self-esteem, but what about kids who are not bossy, but are bossed around?

“The people who are bossy, sometimes they have an attitude,” said Rose Wladis, 11, a Girl Scout and fifth-grader in New York (not at Hunter). “I think being a leader is kind of showing people what to do, but being nice about it and encouraging people and, like, setting an example for them. But bossiness is just telling someone what to do.”

Koplewicz said research shows teen girls are more likely than boys to have symptoms of mental health issues, some related to low self-esteem. Yet girls also tend to do better than boys in school, getting better grades and earning degrees in higher numbers. Despite their academic success, women hold only a fraction of top executive positions, a point “Lean In” emphasizes.

But were female executives seen as bossy growing up, and did they suffer under the weight of the word? “At the moment there is no direct research that categorizes the word bossy as dangerous,” said Koplewicz, who generally supports Sandberg’s campaign to promote female leadership but not so much the focus on the lone word.

The focus wasn’t lost on Hillary Rodham Clinton. She spoke to a gathering of book publishers Wednesday about a memoir she’s working on covering her years as U.S. secretary of state. Clinton threw out “Bossy Pantsuit” as a possible title, riffing on Tina Fey’s best-selling “Bossypants,” then she paused and earned laughs for her punch line: “We can no longer say one of those words.”

Maura Ciammetti, 26, works for a small technology company in suburban Philadelphia. She said being called bossy at times in college and work situations allowed her to “step back and assess how I am approaching a situation. Was I too forceful? Am I listening to my peers? Am I looking at the big picture? Why is this person challenging me with this label?”

Instead of banning the word, Ciammetti said, what “if we taught girls how to deal with their peers calling them names and other situations of adversity.”

Julia Angelen Joy, 42, a Girl Scout troop leader and mother of four in Boise, Idaho, works in public relations and marketing, where lots of women dominate and where she has encountered many a bossy female boss. She calls them “chictators.” She can’t get behind the Ban Bossy project.

“Bossy can mean two things – a strong leader or a domineering nag. Using the word in a campaign is a double-edge sword,” Joy said.

Joy, who is president of “FemCity Boise,” part of the national Femfessionals business network for women, said she was a bossy teen and has two bossy girls. When her 16-year-old was 11, mom forced her to write a letter of apology to her school principal and others for participating in a “mean girl situation” of intimidation and control against other girls.

“I told her as a woman, as a mother, as a sister, as a wife, none of this is acceptable,” said Joy, who suggests a tweak to the Ban Bossy rallying cry: “How about Ban Bossy, support kindness.”

As Joy sees it, and it’s likely Sandberg would agree (she declined an interview with The Associated Press): “There’s a middle to all of this. The middle is a little bit of restraint and a little bit of kindness. We want that for all of our children, male or female.”

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The rising of the women

There’s a great line in the old labor anthem “Bread and Roses” that declares that “the rising of the women means the rising of the race.”

I sang that line in recent weeks as various news stories seemed to dramatize the point.

The Girl Scouts of America celebrated its centennial anniversary this year. Given the Boy Scouts of America’s recent decision to continue discriminating against gay, bisexual and transgender boys, there is much to revere in the wise and inclusive policies of the Girl Scouts.

The Girl Scouts have not been hit by the controversy rocking the Boy Scouts because they never adopted a policy excluding anyone. If I’m reading their policy correctly, even a boy who identifies as a girl can, with the consent of his parents, join the Girl Scouts. The policy describes “sexual preference” as a personal matter irrelevant to membership. It is accompanied by the reasonable provisos that “sexual displays” of any kind are not permitted at scouting events and that leaders are forbid- den to “promote” their sexual preference.

Kids are coming out at younger ages these days, and there are many openly lesbian girls in scout troops. There always have been and continue to be lesbian adults who serve as scout leaders. Conflicts? Zip. Controversy? None. The Girl Scouts fosters a culture of inclusion and tolerance that manifests itself in a diverse, thriving organization whose members love it.

In a minor controversy resolved 20 years ago, Girl Scout leaders exhibited the wisdom of Solomon (perhaps I should say of Esther) by adopting a policy that neither requires nor prohibits prayer at scouting events and that allows scouts who are not monotheists to substitute another word for “God” when reciting the Girl Scout Promise.

It’s an old truism that girls mature more quickly than boys. Apparently that maturity extends to our scouting organizations, too.

Another story that had me furious, then philosophical, was the sentencing of a U.S. Air Force training instructor to 20 years in prison for the sexual harassment and assaults of women recruits under his command.

The horrendous numbers of sexual assaults of women in the Armed Forces and the institutional inertia that tolerates it have been the focus of recent cable news shows and a hard-hitting documentary called “The Invisible War.” Of 3,192 reports of sexual assault in the services in 2011, only 240 went to trial. The Pentagon admits that the crime is vastly under- reported and that there may be up to 19,000 rapes in the military annually.

In a system of command and subordination, where the perpetrators are often senior officers, victims are too intimidated to speak up. Evidence reveals that the few who do are ignored or harassed even more.

It’s not easy to change a culture as macho and a bureaucracy as massive as the military, but change is clearly afoot. The number of women joining the services and achieving senior ranks is increasing every year. More and more victims are standing up and taking their stories to the media. Congress is demanding more thorough investigations and enforcement, and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has ordered administrative reforms to improve accountability. The advancement of women in the military, where brains are now more important than brawn, may signal the end of a culture of impunity and sexual aggression.

Like the song says, the rising of the women means the rising of the race.

Indiana lawmaker refuses to sign Girl Scouts resolution

An Indiana lawmaker is the only member of the Legislature refusing to sign a resolution celebrating the Girl Scouts of America’s 100th anniversary.

The lawmaker, state Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, called the group for girls a “radicalized organization” that supports abortion and the “homosexual lifestyle,” the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette first reported.

Morris stated his position in a letter.

He alleged the youth group is a “tactical arm of Planned Parenthood” and that many parents are “abandoning the Girl Scouts because they promote homosexual lifestyles.”

Morris said in a Girl Scouts study of 50 role model, “only three have a briefly-mentioned religious background – all the rest are feminists, lesbians or Communists.”

He referred to a World Net Daily article that said troops are not allowed to pray or sing traditional Christmas Carols.

And, referring to a recent controversy in Colorado, complained that “boys who decide to claim a ‘transgender’ or cross-dressing life-style are permitted to become a member of a Girl Scout troop, performing crafts with the girls and participate in overnight and camping activities – just like any real girl.”

Morris also complained that first lady Michelle Obama is an honorary leader of the organization and that the Obamas “are radically pro-abortion and vigorously support the agenda of Planned Parenthood, should give each of us reason to pause before our individual or collective endorsement of the organization.”

Representatives responded in defense of the resolution and the Girl Scouts.

Rep. Kathy Richardson, R-Noblesville, told the Journal Gazette, “I guess he’s entitled to his opinion. They are out selling cookies – not sex and abortions.”

The Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana Michigan posted on its Website a statement of “What We Stand For” that addresses some of Morris’ claims.

The organization’s mission is to help build girls of “courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.”

Neither the Northern Indiana Michigan organization or the Girl Scouts of the United States of America has a relationship with Planned Parenthood, which provides health services to women.

And, the statement read, the scouts’ position is that issues related to human sexuality and reproductve health are best left to parents or guardians and their daughters.

In regards to transgender youth, the statement says those issues are addressed on a case-by-case basis, with the “welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the … troop … a troop priority.”

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Religious right wages war against Girl Scouts

Religious extremists have launched a crusade against the Girl Scouts.

Churches throughout the United States are ousting troops from meeting on their premises and urging parents to yank their daughters from the group. At the same time, a boycott of Girl Scout cookies is underway.

According to its critics, the Girl Scouts is a secular organization that promotes birth control, paganism, abortion and – the ultimate evil of all, according to right-wing Christians – homosexuality. Their growing smear campaign, conducted through social media, contends that the group is affiliated with Planned Parenthood, the far right’s current bogeyman.

America’s Girl Scouts have repeatedly countered the right’s charges, maintaining they have no stance on birth control and abortion.

The cookie boycott was launched by a group calling itself Honest Girl Scouts, a front group for Mission America’s obsessively anti-gay Linda Harvey. She is known for her frequent tirades against “the homosexual community” and has claimed, among many other bizarre things, that all gays “hate Jesus Christ and His followers.”

Harvey is incensed that a Colorado Girl Scouts troop decided to allow a 7-year-old transgender girl to join.

Selling Girl Scout cookies is an all-American tradition that teaches girls about enterprise, teamwork and business management.

Radical-right group calls for boycott of Girl Scout cookies

A Ventura County Girl Scout released a video calling for a boycott of the group’s popular cookies over what she calls its “radical homosexual agenda.”

“Taylor,” as the girl is identified, is a 14-year-old girl who said she was mortified by Girl Scout officials’ recent decision to allow a 7-year-old transgender girl to join a Colorado-based troop.In her video, Taylor warned that proceeds from the sales of Girl Scout cookies “push a radical homosexual agenda at the expense of the Scouts’ safety.”

Taylor’s video is posted on the far-right websiteHonestGirlScounts.com. The home page has a variety of articles linking Girl Scouts of USA to what it calls “radical” groups such as Planned Parenthood and “radical” ideas, such as STD prevention and birth control.

The site calls on the organization to “eliminate sex education from Girl Scout permission and curricula.”Honest Girl Scouts is calling for the Scouts to cut ties with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) over its “friendship” with Planned Parenthood “and its worldwide agenda of explicit sexual education for young children.”

The religious right group claims that Girl Scouts of USA new CEO Anna Maria Chavez is a member of a “pro-abortion feminist coalition.”

Girl Scout officials have denied that cookie proceeds support any agenda but instead help to fund local troop activities.