Let's Hear It for the Girls

Posted: Nov 18, 2011 11:00 PM

"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 2 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 Felisha Archuleta first approached the local troop leader about her son joining, the answer was pretty sensible: but he's a boy.

But what's only natural is not politically correct and so the troop leader subsequently got a talking-to. "Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in kindergarten through 12th grade as members," the Girl Scouts in Colorado ultimately 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."

My heart goes out to Bobby as the Girl Scout cookie continues to crumble. Being a Girl Scout may only contribute to his confusion.

But his membership may be clarifying to the rest of us. The Girl Scouts today is nothing like the clean, wholesome organization that many think it is. Local decisions about gender-blind scouting are just the tip of the iceberg. To help correct this picture, Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International, has put together a website for concerned parents, www.100questionsforthegirlscouts.org.

Christy Volanski, whose two daughters have quit the Girl Scouts, was one of those concerned parents. She points out that Girls Scouts of the USA, the American arm of the global organization, is a member of the National Collaboration for Youth (NCY), which promotes pro-choice groups and abortion campaigns.

Slater's is not a war against the Girl Scouts, though. "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," she tells me.

But for those who don't want to be mixed up with all of this, a group called American Heritage Girls has stepped in to fill the breach. Established in 1995 in Ohio, AHG has 15,000 members in 42 states and four countries. The members have uniforms and badges, and they even sell various products.

"I believe that character development needs to be based on timeless truths, not on cultural norms," said Patti Garibay, national executive director of the 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, 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 eternally impactful values."

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 formal statement of support of the American Heritage Girls. "Like the BSA, AHG is faith-based, realizing a duty to God is of utmost importance to the full development of a child," Garibay adds.

The George Washington Bridge connecting New York and New Jersey may be green this month in honor of the 100th anniversary of the GSA, but the color may really point to the time being ripe for a second look and a consideration of alternatives.