I was doing some grocery shopping this weekend, and as I left the store I was persuaded to make one last purchase. Outside were several Girl Scouts sitting at a table surrounded by boxes of cookies. I immediately reached for my wallet.
Girl Scout cookies rock. I’m partial to Thin Mints, Trefoils and Samoas. Plus, my daughter was a member of the Scouts when she was younger, so I’ve always had a soft spot for the organization.
But now there’s an added bonus to buying the cookies: You get to annoy the Religious Right.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts, so it’s an especially meaningful time for the organization, its leaders and members. Unfortunately, the anniversary has also sparked a raft of new attacks on the venerable group by Religious Right cranks. The Girl Scouts, you see, are accused of promoting feminism, abortion and godlessness.
This is nothing new. Back in 1994, Focus on the Family blasted the Girl Scouts after the group made a religious oath optional for membership. FOF founder James Dobson asserted that the Girl Scouts had “lost their way” and accused the group of “pushing a philosophy – a philosophy that includes humanism and radical feminism.”
Seven years after that, FOF’s Citizen magazine reprinted a hatchet job on the Girl Scouts that had originally run in the National Review. The article concluded ominously, “There are currently 2.7 million Girl Scouts in the U.S. That’s a lot of liberal feminists to look forward to.”
Two years ago, culture warrior Charles W. Colson piled on in a column, labeling the Girl Scouts dupes for Planned Parenthood. Colson exhorted his followers to boycott the annual cookie sale.
The right-wing attacks on the Girl Scouts are fueled by misinformation and, in some cases, outright lies. For example, the American branch of the Girl Scouts takes no stand on issues like abortion. And their alleged godlessness is also a myth. The Girl Scout Promise includes a vow “to serve God and my country.” Most girls still say it, but it’s no longer required. The Girl Scouts favor inclusion and didn’t want any girl who might feel uncomfortable reciting a religious oath to be excluded.
So what the Religious Right’s real beef with the Girl Scouts? I think it boils down to the fact that the Girl Scouts produce something the Religious Right fears: confident, self-assured women. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, so much of the Religious Right agenda is about control of others. In the case of women, it’s about controlling their reproductive freedom – even to the extent that the theocrats are now trying to undermine access to birth control.
Are the Girl Scouts producing “feminists”? If you define that word as any woman who believes she has the right to determine her own destiny, then yes, they are. As the father of a soon-to-be 18-year-old young woman, I’m thankful for the range of opportunities that await her. My wife and I have worked to give her to skills to take advantage of them. We couldn’t do it alone, and if the Girl Scouts helped bring that about, then more power to them.
The Religious Right will just have to get over it. We aren’t going back.
So take my advice and pick up a couple of extra boxes of Girl Scout cookies this year. If you’re watching your weight or can’t eat the cookies due to allergies, give them to friends as gifts or donate them to a local food bank. You get great-tasting cookies, the Girl Scouts get support and the Religious Right gets a merit badge in impotent intolerance.
Talk about a win-win.