May 2016 Church & State - May 2016

St. Louis Bishop’s Attack On Girl Scouts Backfires As Cookie Sales Skyrocket

  AU admin

A Missouri chapter of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. recently raised a record amount of money at its annual fundraiser, thanks in part to a backlash to critical comments from a prominent Catholic cleric.

In a February missive, Roman Catholic Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis slammed the Girl Scouts for supposedly promoting ideas that are “incompatible” with Catholic doctrine.

“We must stop and ask ourselves – is Girl Scouts concerned with the total well-being of our young women?” Carlson wrote in a letter. “Does it do a good job forming the spiritual, emotional, and personal well-being of Catholic girls?”

Carlson was apparently upset over the Girl Scouts’ alleged ties to Plan­ned Parenthood and similar groups. The New York Times reported that the archbishop “criticized the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. for its ties to Amnesty International, the Coalition for Adolescent Girls, Oxfam and other groups because of their support for sex education and reproductive rights. He said the organization’s promotion of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan as role models was ‘in conflict with Christian values.’”

Carlson did not order Catholic parishes to stop sponsoring troops but wrote, “I am asking each pastor that allows Girl Scout troops to meet on parish property to conduct a meeting with troop leadership to review these concerns and discuss implementing alternative options for the formation of our girls.”

If Carlson hoped to draw people away from the Girl Scouts, he miscalculated badly. After his attack hit the media, there was an immediate blowback, and Girl Scouts supporters rallied. The Associated Press reported that just weeks after Carlson weighed in, the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri raised a record $350,000 from 500 guests at its annual fundraiser.

“Community support has been very affirming,” Bonnie Barczykowski, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri CEO, said.

The archbishop’s assault came during the Girl Scouts’ annual cookie drive, and many people apparently deci­ded that one way to show support was to buy more boxes. Barczykowski told the AP that the Scouts had more requests than normal from out-of-state residents who wanted to buy cook­ies and received multiple calls from businesses that wanted to help sell them on behalf of the organization. 

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