“When the woman answered the door, she looked at my daughter and said, ‘We don’t support Girl Scouts because they support abortion, which kills babies,’ ” recalled Kim Douglas, who’s been a troop leader as well as a Scout parent for four years.
“It left my daughter very shocked, confused,” Douglas said. “She said, ‘Mommy, something creepy happened to me.’ ”
Douglas’s daughter didn’t know what abortion was and didn’t ask, which is a relief. The mother said the neighbor had a right to her views, of course, but shouldn’t have shared them with a 10-year-old.
“She doesn’t look like a teenager. It was obvious she’s a kid,” Douglas said.
Douglas contacted me to relate the incident following my recent column describing endeavors to falsely portray the nation’s 3.2 million Girl Scouts as unwitting victims of a purported radical feminist conspiracy aimed in particular at promoting abortion and contraception. (The Scouts take no position on either.)
The disinformation efforts by conservative activists, conducted mainly on the Internet, have had some success.
In our region, as I reported earlier, a Roman Catholic church in Chantilly decided in January to stop sponsoring Girl Scout troops after the current school year. Some Catholic school parents in Alexandria are also considering severing ties.
Nationally, a self-described, “Christ-centered” alternative to Girl Scouts, called American Heritage Girls, says its membership has jumped from 13,000 in the summer to 18,000 today.
“Most of it is from people leaving the Girl Scouts,” said Patti Garibay, founder and national executive director of the 17-year-old group based in Cincinnati. “It does seem like Catholic membership is growing quickly.”
Despite such setbacks, I think the Girl Scouts will survive just fine, for two reasons. First, the Scouts are working hard to put out the facts, and have taken steps to assuage their critics. Also, some foes make a mockery of their own position by their extreme stances — such as assailing the Girl Scouts for having first lady Michelle Obama as honorary president.
After the Chantilly church’s decision, the local Girl Scout council held four public forums to clarify its stances: The council has no relationship with Planned Parenthood. It sends no money to the international scouting federation, which supports access to contraception.
Nationally, in a move that some Catholic leaders described as a positive gesture, the national Girl Scout organization last year named a Catholic, Anna Maria Chavez, as its new chief executive.
The Girl Scouts also altered its national literature to drop American playwright Josefina Lopez as an example of a woman who led an inspirational life. Lopez’s inclusion drew criticism because one of her plays, “Simply Maria,” satirizes the Catholic church.