Girl Scouts Wendy Davis Neal J Conway

Is Attacking The Girl Scouts Over Wendy Davis A Good Idea?

(Feb 9, 2014)
By "attacking" the Girl Scouts of America, I mean calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies, sales of which are in full vigor early in the year. Outlets include
numerous Catholic parishes that sponsor troops.

Since the early 2000s, the Girl Scouts of America (GSA) has been accused of having ties to Planned Parenthood and of supporting organizations that promote abortion and contraception. In 2012, a committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops began investigating GSA (1). Apparently, as of Feb. 2014, it has not yet finished. Meanwhile Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently praised the Girl Scouts. The GSA is heartily endorsed by the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM), of which the equally popular Catholic Youth Organization is a service.

We need not wait for the USCCB to make its conclusions. First, let's look at how the Girl Scouts are organized. There's a World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS). The Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) is a member of this. The GSUSA is a federation (different from a heirarchy) of local councils which are organized regionally to supply troops. Each council has its own board and does things such as honoring local prominent women. Some of these local councils have ties to planned Parenthood.

Councils and troops get most of the money from cookie sales. The national organization, GSUSA, makes money from licensing the brand. GSUSA donates $1.5 million a year to WAGGS. This worldwide entity advocates for and financially supports organizations that promote abortion and contraception.

Is it any big shock that a world organization on the parts of the planet that lean heavily socialist would support population control? Likewise is it any shock that the GSUSA, which is comprised of all kinds of women and has no religious affiliation, which encourages members to honor God as each conceives of God, would have some members and employees who advocate contraception and abortion? Is it any huge surprise that some councils would have ties to Planned Parenthood?

Emanating from Texas, the boycott, Cookiecott, has been urged every year since the mid-2000s. It was dusted off and spruced up for 2014 when the Illinois-based Pro-Life Action League announced it was joining the Texas-based Pro-Life Waco in a national boycott of Girl Scout Cookies (2). Even though previous boycotts have resulted in increased cookie sales -- because people see the Girl Scouts as being picked on -- the effort was renewed because the "Girl Scouts" were accused of praising pro-abortionists Kathleen Sebelius and Wendy Davis. (3)

But when you accuse the "Girl Scouts" of touting Sebelius and Davis, which "Girl Scouts" do you mean? The national GSA? An autonomous local council? Or the troop selling cookies in your church's gathering space?

As it turns out, the Girl Scout's "promotion of Kathleen Sebelius" and "designation of Wendy Davis as an incredible woman" were both social media posts of the national organization. That means they were likely the work of one flack hired by the GSUSA office and told to keep the buzz going. I'm sure the Pro-Life Action League has a counterpart. The GSUSA Facebook post about Sebelius was a link to The Washington Post's She The People column entitled "Seven American women who made a difference in 2013." (4)

You have to admit, especially if you had your insurance cancelled, that Kathleen Sebelius did make a difference in 2013.

The post re: Wendy Davis was on the GSUSA Twitter feed. It was a retweet of a Huffington Post tweet about a discussion of who should be the "incredible woman of 2013." Some of the Huffington Post's panel of feminist Whoevers broached Wendy Davis' name, but the consensus was for Malala Yousafzai. One said that Malala should have been Time's "Person of The Year." I wholeheartedly agree and I would bet that Miss Yousafzi, as a good Moslem, doesn't believe in abortion or contraception.

Do social media posts made by the flack in between her brewing coffee rise to the level of endorsement? If we already know that the GSA national office supports abortion and contraception through the world association, again, what's the big shock?

And what does the ephemeral propaganda, the organizational structure and international pipeline of anti-life funding mean to that Girl Scout troop selling cookies in the church vestibule? What does it mean to their parents and grandparents? What does it mean to other parishioners who see the Girl Scouts in nothing but a positive light? How are they all going to react when fellow parishioners, at the urging of a couple of rink dinky non-profits in fundraising frenzy, ride into parishes like cowboys, as some will surely do, with guns blazing at a popular and beloved organization?

It amuses me when people sally forth thinking that all they have to do is speak the truth -- and this Girl Scout thing is far from a simple truth to speak -- and they'll get a response like: "Oh my God! We didn't know! We'll stop right away! Thank you for telling us!"

I've tried it more than once in my naive years. I know from personal experience that warning average Catholics that there are problems in the church, that, for example, there are "two churches," that nuns are not necessarily their father's nuns, disturbs them rather than engages them. Unlike the apocalyptic, artless frontal attackers who think that whoever hears a trumpet blast of truth will join the rush into the breach, I know that most won't join the charge.

The culture wars discussed in Crisis, First Things, National Review are as remote to a majority of Catholics as tribal war between the Nuer and the Dinka. They don't even "feel religious liberty in their guts," to use Helen Alvaré's expression. They listened politely when they were told that there was an insert about religious freedom in the bulletin. If they were 10th-generation Democrats, they voted for Obama in 2012 anyway.

Most Catholics must still be evangelized and catechized. That will take years and years; accept it.

In this case of the Girl Scout Cookie boycott, they're likely to take it as an attack on their daughters and grandaughters. The non-profiteers who stir this up with their web sites don't think about the strife that may be caused by what they're urging. One site blithely encourages, "Don't be discouraged by a negative or dismissive response."(5)

There are Catholic alternatives to the Girl Scouts. Long ago the Catholic Church regarded scouting as a Protestant enterprise. Catholics were discouraged, if not forbidden outright, from joining them. Alternatives such as Pathfinders as Foresters were organized.

Why was this approach abandoned? I suspect that the embrasure of scouting was also another result of the "spirit of Vatican II." I think that dioceses and parishes should explore alternatives in a non-snubbing way, bearing in mind that the Boy and Girl Scouts are very strongly branded, a tradition in many families, and not easily replaced.

Everything doesn't have to happen now. Everything can't happen now. Throwing fuel on low priority fires could damage the pro-life movement and the cause of religious freedom. Encouraging this Cookiecott is not big-picture thinking. It's a sign to me that the pro-life movement is out of control with too many non-profit cowboys galloping through the grass roots, scattering the pro-life rank and file in all directions.

Right now, messengers who come to Catholic parishes bearing bad news about the Girl Scouts are likely to be set down as cranks. And when they come with a really urgent message, such as one about Christians being jailed for teaching that homosexuality is a sin, their fellows might say "Oh, here come the cranks again!" and hold their ears.

(1) Carol Morello, "Catholic bishops continue to delve into concerns about Girl Scouts," The Washington Post, May 10, 2012

(2) Eric Scheidler, Pro-life Action League, "League Joins National Boycott of Girl Scout Cookies," Jan. 30, 2014

(3) Austin Ruse, "Endorsement of Wendy Davis Triggers National Boycott of Girl Scout Cookies,", Jan. 29, 2014

(4) Joann Weiner, "Seven American women who made a difference in 2013," The Washington Post, 12/30/13

(5) Speak Now: girl scouts

Copyright 2014 by Neal J. Conway. All rights reserved.

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