Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Girl Scouts of the USA is continuing to fall under scrutiny for its alleged connections to groups that promote abortion, contraception and homosexuality.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said that the bishops are looking into concerns about the Girl Scouts organization.
In March, Bishop Rhoades penned a letter to his fellow bishops explaining that the committee recently met and discussed “a variety of the concerns” that have been voiced about Girl Scouts of the USA over several years, including “possible problematic relationships with other organizations” and “problematic programmatic materials and resources.”
In recent years, the Girl Scouts have met with increased allegations of acting against traditional values.
In 2010, two teenage girls who had spent eight years in Girl Scouts left the organization and created Speak Now: Girl Scouts, a website dedicated to raising awareness about the problems they discovered within the organization.
The two young teens – Tess and Sydney – said that it had become “increasingly apparent” that the Girl Scouts organization had values that were incompatible with their own.
“Leaving Girl Scouts was not a casual, easy, or convenient decision,” they said. However, in the end, they decided that they needed to “stand for our beliefs, for the dignity of life, the sanctity of marriage, modesty, purity.”
Concerns over ties to Planned Parenthood also led 10-year-old Grace Swanke to leave her Girl Scout troop and start selling her own cookies, which she calls “Cookies for Life.” She donates the proceeds from her sales to pro-life groups.
Two years ago, concerns were raised over reports that a sexually explicit Planned Parenthood brochure had been distributed at an international Girl Scouts meeting.
In January 2012, a Colorado troop attracted criticism for allowing a 7-year-old transgender child to join, despite the fact that he was not a girl.
Objections have also been voiced to the Girl Scouts’ relationships with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, an organization that promotes abortion, contraception and homosexuality around the globe.
Representatives of the Girl Scouts denied having knowledge of the Planned Parenthood brochures at the conference and have said that the organization does not take a stand on abortion or birth control.
However, controversy over the organization continues and has drawn the attention of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Voicing gratitude for the work that Catholic Girl Scout troops have done to serve girls and the wider community for many years, Bishop Rhoades also recognized in his recent letter that some important questions remain unanswered on both the local and national levels.
He reiterated his intent “to keep the bishops apprised of the Committee’s ongoing consideration of this matter.”
Bishop Rhoades said that the committee hopes to offer resources for “local level use” by bishops, priests, youth ministers and educational leaders.
These resources “may include considerations related to the identity of Catholic troops and considerations that may be helpful for parents,” he explained.
Furthermore, he said, the committee has recommended having staff from the bishops’ conference work with the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry to identify and address and remaining questions or concerns that remain at the local level.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment on the matter with the Girl Scouts because it is ongoing.
However, the controversy has led some families to pull their daughters out of Girl Scouts and turn instead to other organizations that offer some of the same activities for young girls, but with a Christian approach.
American Heritage Girls, a Judeo-Christian focused girls organization, was founded in 1995 in Ohio by a group of parents seeking “a wholesome program for their daughters” to contrast the secular options available.
The organization has grown to more than 19,000 members in 45 states.
Recent years have also brought significant growth for the Little Flowers Girls' Club, a Catholic program for girls aimed at promoting virtue by exploring saints, Scripture and the Catechism.
Started in 1993 by a Catholic mom of 11, Little Flowers now has some 50 registered groups throughout the U.S. and Canada, although registration is optional, as the groups are run at the local level.
The group says that it “strives to bring the Catholic faith alive and inspire the girls to become authentic Catholic women.”