On March 12, 1912, Juliette Gordon assembled 18 girls in her Savannah, Ga. home for the first local Girl Scouts meeting in the United States. Gordon believed all girls should have the opportunity to develop spiritually, mentally and physically. She brought young girls out of the isolated home environment of the early 20th century into the realm of community service and the open air of camping, hiking and sporting activities. Today, a hundred years later, there are more than 59 million young women benefiting from Christian values, life skills, commitment to country and dedicated service to humanity taught by the Girl Scouts of America.
During World War I, the Girl Scouts sold war bonds on city streets. They learned about food production and conservation of natural resources. Many of them volunteered to work in hospitals and collected much-needed peach pits used in gas mask filters that protected our infantrymen from the effect of mustard gas used by the Germans.
In the mid-1920s they established Girl Scout troops in China, Mexico, Syria and Saudi Arabia for young girls living in other countries. The first Native American Girl Scout troop was established in central New York state on the soil of the Onondaga Nation. And a troop of Mexican-American girls was formed in Houston, Texas.
During the Great Depression, Girl Scouts continued to work in hospitals. They collected and distributed clothing to the needy, made quilts, carved wooden toys for needy kids, gathered food and established canning programs to provide meals for the poor and undernourished children of America. Using their resources they spent countless hours transcribing books into braille and provided training for those who would later work with the blind.
In 1933, the Girl Scouts of Greater Philadelphia Council started the tradition of selling cookies as a fundraiser for their community service. They baked cookies and sold them at 23 cents for a box of 44. In 1934, they began selling commercially baked cookies and the rest is history.
So why is the Catholic Church and its U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops initiating an official inquiry into the Christian policies of an American institution comprised of young girls who dedicate their lives to our American values?
The Girl Scouts have parish-sponsored troops representing some parochial schools and the scouts also sell cookies at Catholic schools and churches. Some official Girl Scout literature mentions the function of Planned Parenthood, contraception, the need for practicing safe sex and how to protect female health. The church and the bishops, who are all male, want the liberal Girl Scouts to end their heathen practices of discussing planned parenthood and birth control with their young impressionable Christian women because it is contrary to the word of their founder, Jesus Christ.
But the scouts are not backing away from the power and influence of the Vatican. They claim there is no partnership with Planned Parenthood, that the organization takes no position on birth control, abortion or sexuality and they will continue protecting the health of women. They said. “Young women need an environment where they can freely and openly discuss issues of sex and sexuality.”
The collective phobia Catholics have concerning personal freedom of choice was best illustrated last week. Conservative legislators in Alaska and Indiana joined Catholic radio in berating the Girl Scouts for accepting a 7-year-old transgender child who was born a boy but was raised as a girl.
Unable to control the sexual behavior of its priests and nuns, the church is always trying to tell the rest of us how to live our lives. It would rather women have 14 children and live in poverty with no education than enjoy a lifetime of good health. But if I had a choice to make, I would rather have my daughter join the Girl Scouts than living like a nun.
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.