Girl Scouts Flap Rears Its Silly Head Once Again

By Wendy Thomas Russell | August 2, 2012 | 3 comments

After reading yet another story on the flap over the Girl Scouts book I wrote, I’m reminded once again at how irrationally freaked out some parents become when their kids are exposed to ideas different from their own. Whether it’s nonreligious parents instructing their kids on what to think about Catholicism, or conservatives instructing kids on what to think about gay marriage, the short-sightedness involved in both is the same. Push too hard in one direction and you brainwash your kid, crush their self-esteem and damage your relationship with them in the process. Instead of teaching our kids what to think; we need to teach them how to think. After all, if our ideology is so brittle it can’t stand up to a little opposition, then it’s not an ideology worth having. 

Here’s a blog I wrote in January. Thought it was worth a rerun.

So, remember when Glenn Beck’s The Blaze accused me of injecting the name of a liberal website called Media Matters into a Girl Scouts book I wrote?And how the story prompted a minor shit storm when Fox News decided to feature the issue on two different segments, the Grapevine and Fox & Friends?

And then remember how then I wrote a response on this blog, mostly to clarify for the conservative newsies that I was not the droid they were looking for?

Last week was fun, wasn’t it?

Well, I had kind of assumed the good times were behind us and that the bevy of rabid over-reactions — which included, but were not limited to, someone calling me “a notorious atheist who infiltrated the Girl Scouts” — were in the past. But, thanks to the Lord Almighty, it’s not over yet.

On Tuesday, The Blaze published a follow-up story: Author Denies Inserting Media Matters Reference into Girl Scouts Book. The reader response was not nearly as plentiful as it had been to the first story, but the level of vitriol did not disappoint. One Blaze reader likened me to a serial killer.

“Wendy Thomas Russell, the author with ink-stained fingers, said ‘It wasn’t me!” wrote this particular reader, whose moniker is Spandamonkey. “Notice the three names, just like a serial killer.”

Please tell me Long Beach Press-Telegram columnist Tim Grobaty is not the only one getting a kick out of this.

Honestly, the name-calling doesn’t just amuse me — it fascinates me. As my husband said, “The fact that conservatives are so up in arms because of one link in one book shows how fragile people consider their own values. If conservative values are so frail that they can be completely undermined by exposure to a single slightly progressive website, those conservative values can’t be very strong.”

See why I married that guy?

All kidding aside — and, believe me, I’ve done a lot of kidding in the last couple of days — there are a couple things about this dust-up that really do concern me:

First, it concerns me that the Girl Scouts, a national organization that promotes honor, leadership and citizenship, is being stereotyped as liberal and dangerous to conservative ideals. I worked on three books for the Girl Scouts. I know how stringent the group’s guidelines are. I know how hard editors worked to make sure they were being sensitive and fair and true to the Girl Scout’s philosophy and founder every step of the way. The fact that one reference to one  website was made in one book — and it slipped under the GSA radar — does not a conspiracy make. Far from it.

It also concerns me that, despite the amazing opportunities and self-esteem girls receive from the Girl Scouts, parents are now threatening to pull their kids out of the organization en masse. And why exactly? Because they’re afraid their kids might see the name of a website? Because they think they might actually — gasp! — look at it and see what it says? Oh no! Crash! Bam! Boom! They saw! They saw! Now they’re ruined little whores!

Let’s face it, conservative parents are not the only ones who are guilty of running away and hiding their kids from things they don’t agree with. Liberals do it all the time, too. Sheltering our kids from political and religious views that scare us is universal. And, yet, it’s so much of what I’m trying to move us away from. As my smarty-pants husband said, if we parents really believe in the strength of own values and beliefs, then we ought to know they’ll compete well in the marketplace of ideas. We ought to be confident enough to let our kids see the world as it really is, and people as they really are.

I’m not saying all liberals should go out and buy NRA subscriptions, or that conservatives need to subscribe to Planned Parenthood newsletters. But do remember: Kids will always benefit from exposure to different ideas, beliefs and ways of life — as long as parents are there to provide a guiding light.

Trust me, they can handle it. And, you know what? We can, too.


  1. cam says:

    For the past six months I have been trying to gather information to determine if my three girls should continue with Scouts. For me this is not a “liberal” or “conservative” issue but a values issue. I am an American Catholic choosing to send my children to parachoial schools. My faith is important to me and I hope for it to be important to my children as they grow which is why we have chosen a Catholic school. A traditional moral value of being Catholic is our pro-life beliefs. The belief that life does begin at conception and that the life created has equal rights in line with all living people. When you believe this it is difficult to put your money or membership to any organization (secular or religious) that does not adhere to this. The Catholic bone of contention is not all the good the Girl Scouts DO do, but that GSUSA is financially supporting through money it has made over the years (whether it be “investment” money, due money, or cookie money, or grant money)the WAAGGS organization which supports things contrary to this belief. The Girl Scouts of America is a secular organization. However, their membership thrives in parachoial schools. I have seen some estimates that Girl Scout membership is over 30 percent Catholic. We have a constitutional right to our beliefs and for acting in our own conscience regarding the GSUSA. The Catholic Bishops also have the right to look into this matter as it is a cornerstone of our morality as Catholics. The issues are simple. There will be disagreement. It is not personal and only time, thought, and discussion for American Catholics will reveal the path that we need to follow.

    • Hi Cam!

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment. I sympathize with your position. A friend of mine recently withdrew her son from the Boy Scouts over a moral issue, as well. (In that case it was the Scouts’ position on homosexuality.) I think your decision is yours to make, and you must do what’s right for your family. But I would encourage you to look past the propaganda machine that is Fox News and make sure you’re being given accurate information. According to the GSA, there is no truth to the allegations that they support Planned Parenthood — and I’ve never seen an evidence of that, ever. Have you?

      According to a Q&A section on the GSA’s website:

      • Does Girl Scouting support Planned Parenthood?

      “No. There is no relationship between Planned Parenthood and Girl Scouts of Texas Oklahoma Plains (the regional council that covers the area) or Girl Scouts of the USA.”

      • What is the Girl Scout position on abortion and birth control?

      “Girl Scouts does not take a position on abortion or birth control or develop materials on these issues. We feel our role is to help girls develop self-confidence and good decision-making skills that will help them make wise choices in all areas of their lives. At the same time, Girl Scouts respects the moral teachings and theology of the Catholic Church. We support the right of pastors to verify that troops in their parishes are in compliance with Church teaching.”

      • Does Girl Scouts of Texas Oklahoma Plains donate money to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts?

      “No. Girl Scouts of Texas Oklahoma Plains donates no money to WAGGGS. Individual Girl Scout troops may donate to the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund, a Girl Scouts of the USA fund that supports service projects, training and international opportunity events, as well as exchange visiting programs. A portion of the funds is used to provide scholarships for girls to travel to the four World Centers. Each Girl Scout troop is encouraged to make its own decision as to whether or not to donate.”

      Hope this helps! And thanks again for writing, Cam.

  2. Nancy Thomas says:

    thumbs up!

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Due out March 31, Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious offers a well-researched look at a timely subject: secular parenting. With chapters on avoiding indoctrination, talking about death, vaccinating kids against intolerance, dealing with religious baggage, and getting along with religious relatives, the book offers a refreshingly compassionate approach to raising religiously literate, highly tolerant and critically thinking children capable of making up their own minds about what to believe. The book may be pre-ordered by visiting Brown Paper Press.

      Natural Wonderers is my new blog published by the Patheos faith network. An extension of my previous blog — Relax, It's Just God — Natural Wonderers offers stories and advice on raising curious, compassionate children in secular families.
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