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Girl Scouts
Question from Melissa Buddendeck on 3/20/2003:

Every year I see the same charge leveled here against the Girl Scouts that they are somehow complicit with Planned Parenthood and other organizations that support abortion, with the unstated implication being that proceeds from cookie sales are somehow channeled toward these outside groups. Please allow me, as a past Girl Scout, a mother of a Girl Scout, and a veteran "Cookie Mom," to explain just where this money goes.

The following is the breakdown of how one box of cookies supports Girl Scouts. (This is based on a price of $3 per box. Individual councils set their own prices.)

$1.41 -- Program events and resources: This includes badges for participation (including Catholic awards for Scouting), cost of program materials, cost of site rental, if necessary.

Volunteer recruitment and training: Advertisements promoting Girl Scouting; site rental and material for training.

Maintenance and operation of resident camps: This includes year-round upkeep of infrastructure and facilities, as well as the care of livestock at many camps. Our council has five such camps, some of which are quite extensive in acreage.

98 cents -- Cost of cookies and sale expenses: The baker, of course, needs to make a profit, and sales material (order forms) printed.

50 cents -- Troop profit: This is money that the troop keeps for itself and uses however it sees fit. In past years profits from my daughter's troop sales have gone to pay for membership dues, handbooks, badges, and field trips and overnight stays at various locations such as zoos. For many troops, cookie sales are their only way of making any money to enhance their Scouting experience.

10 cents -- Cost of Awards and Troop Bonus: Various incentives ranging from pewter figurines to Walkmans are offered to encourage cookie sale participation. Troops that are top-sellers are also compensated, either by specific prizes or coupons that can be used as "money" to pay for camp trips, etc.

1 cent -- Service Units to fund day camps, trips, programs, and activities for local scouts: Sometimes all troops within a certain geographical area will combine for an event, such as an all-day course in babysitting. Materials and site rental are covered by this portion of cookie proceeds.

I remember you stating in the past that you didn't know where Girl Scout cookie money goes. Now, you do.

As for your other allegations -- I have yet to encounter any badge exercise, troop, or council program that advocates premarital sexual activity, or any other behavior counterproductive to the mental and physical health of girls, preteens, and teens. Yes -- some Scout materials do touch on issues such as teen pregnancy. But it is made explictly clear that teenage sexual activity is not good, and can lead to many undesirable consequences. In addition, the myths concerning pregnancy are addressed, such as that of not being able to get pregnant before the onset of first menses. For some girls, this (along with schools)may be the only place they will be able to get the information they need. At no point are groups such as Planned Parenthood mentioned; neither is any kind of birth control or abortion ever mentioned as a possible way to deal with pregnancy. The subtext -- if people are paying attention -- is clear: Abstinence.

Every year I keep waiting to see examples from you of specific Girl Scout materials that you find offensive. Can you at least cite one badge program, event, Scout or leader material that makes Girl Scouting's "true aims" apparent? I ask, because I am sure that the Church would also appreciate the information, since some of the most dedicated and active troops are based in Catholic churches. (One caveat: The connections to the various United Nations population programs won't count. I am talking about materials or programs that directly affect girls at the local, or troop, level.)

As for buying cookies -- it really shouldn't be such a conscience-rending decision as some of your posters have made it. Either you buy them, or you don't. But I hope with the information given above (that almost all money benefits local Scouts) some might reconsider their decision. If not, well, that just leaves more cookies for the rest of us. :)

Answer by Judie Brown on 3/22/2003:

Dear Melissa

Thank you for your comments. First of all, it is not my task to discredit any organization but rather to share the facts as we know them and let those who must deal with the particular organization at least be aware of the ties to anti-life programs or projects if in fact such ties exist.

While you say that the Girl Scout connections to the UNFPA should not count, I think it sheds doubt on the credibility of an organization that claims to take no position on abortion yet associates itself at the international level with program and groups that do pander to abortion politics, particularly in the third world.

An organization is often known by the company it keeps. In the case of GSA, we note that they are recommended by NOAPP (National Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting and Prevention). This is the same group that recommends Planned Parenthood Federation of America and other organizations focused on birth control for minors and abortion rights for adolescents. To review the list in full see http://www.noappp.org/services/resources/weblinks/forteens.htm

If GSA does not want to be recommended by such anti-life entities, they can say so; they have not.

On the GSA web site we find this curious statement: The Girl Scout promise: "On my honor, I will try: to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law." Following these words it is stated: "The word 'God' can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on one's spiritual beliefs. When reciting the Girl Scout Promise, it is okay to replace the word 'God' with whatever word your spiritual beliefs dictate." http://www.girlscouts.org/program/promiselaw.html

Finally, while we are not familiar with the text of the Girl Scout Handbook, “Decisions for your Life: Preventing Teenage Pregnancy,” the reason is that the book is only available to councils and leaders. Therefore we cannot review the content but perhaps you can. To order a copy for yourself, see http://shop.girlscouts.org/frames.asp?cartID=FD7F7BFF&store=bookshop

We are very well aware of all the wonderful activities Girl Scouts participate in including cookie sales. Nobody is trying to deflect praise for the worthwhile activities the organization pursues. However it is encumbent on the national leadership of such an organization to remain dedicated to principles, not pragmatism.

Judie Brown



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