The archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri, issued a strong warning against the Girl Scouts because of their support of a variety of issues, including LGBT education and inclusion.
In a letter addressed to priests, laity, and scout leaders, Archbishop Robert Carlson said Girl Scouts USA’s “position on and inclusion of transgender and homosexual issues are proving problematic.” (You can read the entire letter here.)
U.S. culture, Carlson wrote, is “becoming increasingly intolerant of a Catholic worldview regarding these issues.”
In addition to opposing the Girl Scouts’ support of LGBT issued, Carlson also cited the organization’s association with groups such as OxFam and Amnesty International which support contraceptive and reproductive rights for women. He also criticized the Girl Scouts’ promotion of feminist leaders Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem as role models.
“We must stop and ask ourselves — is Girl Scouts concerned with the total well-being of our young women? Does it do a good job forming the spiritual, emotional, and personal well-being of Catholic girls?”
Problematic LGBT-related actions by the Girl Scouts, according to the Archdiocese’s website, include rejecting a $100,000 donation stipulating it “wouldn’t support transgender girls” and some Girl Scout chapters’ choice to welcome transgender girls without notifying other parents. The Girl Scouts’ social media channels are also cited for celebrating marriage equality’s legalization in the U.S.
Carlson’s letter criticized both Girl Scout USA and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ He also said the archdiocese would be monitoring how the Boy Scouts of America will be implementing their new policices allowing gay scouts and leaders.
While not formally barring 4,000 St. Louis-area Girl Scouts from church property, the archbishop asked pastors to discuss these concerns with local Scout leaders and consider alternative scouting organizations which are explicitly Christian. He did disband the century-old Catholic Committee on Girl Scouts.
Bonnie Barczykowski, CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Scouts “greatly value” partnerships with religious organizations, and was confident faith communities, including Catholic ones, would continue supporting the Girl Scouts. Barczykowski cautioned against Catholics bringing up this dispute with the scouts themselves, saying any such confrontations “would be unacceptable.” On that last point, the Archdiocese agreed.
Julie Mudd, a Catholic parent whose daughter attends Catholic schools and will be enrolled in the Girl Scouts upon entering kindergarten, criticized the archbishop’s letter:
“I think they are too focused on other people the Girl Scouts may have some associations with rather than what our local girl scout chapters are actually doing. . .I think it all comes down to the fact they are threatened by anything that puts females in a leadership position.”
After reading Archbishop Carlson’s letter, I wanted to reflect back his own questions to him. Is he really concerned with the “total well-being” of young women? Does endorsing discrimination and acting punitively against an organization which actually does a good job forming the capacities of Catholic young women help or hurt these girls?
The Archdiocese of St. Louis did get one thing correct in this controversy over the Girl Scouts. Their webpage about the scouting controversy states that “[e]ach person must act in accord with their conscience” when it comes to buying the organization’s famous cookies. If your conscience is clear on this issue, you can find out where to buy cookies near you by clicking here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry