An outrageous part of the culture war that isn’t getting enough press is the Religious Right’s demonization the Girl Scouts. The gist of the attack (found here) is typical guilt-by-association stuff: If there’s some reason to name the Girl Scouts in the same sentence as Person X or Organization Y, then the Scouts are responsible for anything X or Y can be accused of doing.
Last month, Catholic bishops joined in by starting an investigation. Like Americans in general, about 1/4 of Girl Scouts are Catholic, and many Scout troops are associated with Catholic parishes. What are the bishops worried about? The WaPo explains:
Critics of the Girl Scouts contend their materials shouldn’t have any links to groups like the Sierra Club, Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam, or other groups that support family planning and contraception. Other critics are unhappy that the American Girl Scouting organization is a member of an international scouting association that supports contraception access.
Some parents have reported that when their daughters go out to sell Girl Scout cookies, they have had doors slammed in their faces by people refusing to buy their treats because they think the profits go to support abortion and birth control.
Why would people think that? Because the Right has been linking the Girl Scouts to that demon of demons, Planned Parenthood. (Indiana Congressman Bob Morris called the Scouts “a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood”, and his regional Girl Scout organization responded.) How can anyone argue with logic like this from the Washington Times?
The best evidence that the Girl Scouts have not actually severed ties with Planned Parenthood is that Planned Parenthood has not tried to destroy them.
(Weirdly, the guilt-by-association thing doesn’t apply to the Washington Times itself, which was founded by the Moonies in 1982 and has been owned and operated by them ever since. The Religious Right is fine with the WT being America’s flagship conservative newspaper.)
A good overview of the actual Girl Scouts and why they enrage the Right was published last September on Slate. From the beginning, Amanda Marcotte argues, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were set on different paths.
While scouting for boys was about preserving the tradition of rugged, outdoorsy masculinity, scouting girls looked to the future, shucking off Victorian models of women as delicate flowers and replacing them with physically capable and adventurous women. …
These origins set the two organizations on strikingly different paths, despite their common emphasis on physical activity and volunteerism. The Boy Scouts still employ a nostalgic worldview, while the Girl Scouts focus more on keeping with the times. …
It’s telling that Christian right critics avoid dealing directly with the group’s “go girl!” brand of empowerment, choosing instead to promote lurid tall tales. Maybe their tactic amounts to a tacit acknowledgement of just how mainstream the Girl Scouts’ feminism is, and just how far from the mainstream the anti-feminist views of the Scouts’ Christian right critics have become. The Girl Scouts focus on building self-esteem, teaching girls to care for their health, and promoting educational opportunities that help the girls’ economic futures. Its Christian right critics cling to a tradition where women exist primarily to serve.
This is part of a larger pattern: Increasingly, the Christian Right is rejecting the traditional American model of a melting pot and embracing a kosher-kitchen view of society, in which everything must be in its proper cabinet, safe from contamination.
Any organization founded on the view that we can put aside doctrinal differences to pursue common goals — Girl Scouts, public schools, public universities, umbrella charities like the United Way, and so on — is targeted either for takeover, destruction, or replacement by a group that has been cleansed and purged. (The most absurd replacement is Conservapedia, which is necessary because Wikipedia is unclean.) The attack is always the same: These groups mix us. They expose us to the views of others. They stir our time, money, and effort into the same pot with the time, money, and effort of people who might disagree with us on other issues.
For example, the Right’s problem with the Susan Komen Foundation wasn’t that Komen funded abortions. (It’s an anti-cancer organization that has nothing to do with abortion.) But by mixing with the anti-cancer activities of Planned Parenthood, Komen became unclean. It has to be purified, destroyed, or pushed beyond the pale before it in turn contaminates the righteous women who want to cure breast cancer.
Girl Scouts is a melting-pot organization. Girls who might have different beliefs or goals or heroines mix together around the common goal of maturity, empowerment, and making the world a better place. But as they color their visions of a better world, girls might discover outside-the-lines groups like the Sierra Club or Doctors Without Borders.
Contamination! Unclean! Unclean!