Now that the school year is under way, parents, pastors and bishops will once again be considering their facilitation of Catholic participation in scouting. The Catholic response to the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) recent decision to allow openly homosexual leaders has been varied, with one diocese severing all parish BSA charters, while the National Committee on Catholic Scouting continues its support of the organization, despite its “strong concern about the practical implications of this resolution, especially for our young people in scouting.”
In contrast to Catholic concerns, the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) praises the Boy Scouts’ “recent efforts to be a more inclusive organization.” This is not a surprising response; overlooked amid the headlines and discussions about BSA’s policy, which “affirms the charter organization’s right to select its unit leaders based on its religious principles” — a policy that is already being publically challenged by a married homosexual man — is the long-standing, fully inclusive policy of the Girl Scouts, which includes “no prohibitions on LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] leaders in the Girl Scouts of the USA.”
Importantly, the structure of the Girl Scout organization differs from BSA. While BSA charters troops through sponsoring organizations such as parishes, the Girl Scout organization does not include exemptions for troops in this fully inclusive policy.
Girl Scouts’ efforts on this matter include GSUSA’s "Guidance for Councils on Transgender Issues." This document, recently posted on the Girl Scouts of Utah’s council website, has been authenticated by GSUSA as “a draft document to be used internally to aid local councils in addressing transgender youth. It is intended for guideline purposes only and has never been a formal policy.” The document, “prepared and endorsed by [the] GSUSA Transgender Issues Task Group,” states that “transgender girls are welcome in Girl Scouts.”
In its guidelines, GSUSA supports multiple approaches to this inclusive ideology. Being a Girl Scout can provide an opportunity for “raising awareness in their community,” and “if a girl and her family are open about being transgender, then we can assume that the council will know, the troop leader will know, and the other girls in her troop will know.”
GSUSA also supports a family’s desire for greater privacy. In the case of a troop meeting at a faith-based community, GSUSA recommends leaving the decision whether or not to share the child’s status with the faith leader to the family, stating that “it shall be the family’s decision whether to pursue such an option, and councils should take care to be sensitive if the family perceives said faith community to be less receptive.”
While GSUSA does recommend that the “adult most closely involved with the participating transgender girl be aware of the transgender girl’s status,” GSUSA acknowledges that the situation may arise “where a parent insists that no one but a council staff person knows” — not a troop leader or other parents — and that “GSUSA clearly affirms that transgender girls have the right to privacy and that their participation in Girl Scouts is in no way predicated on the idea that they must be public about being transgender.”
GSUSA also states that “councils must be clear in communicating that transgender girls (whether open about being transgender or not) are welcome to participate in all aspects of girl scouting, provided they meet the eligibility requirement. Nothing is off limits to them simply because they are transgender, and ... the council staff will work to provide all available participation opportunities.” This includes accommodations at camps, with GSUSA recommending that “an ideal situation will allow transgender girls to use the same bathrooms, showers and tents as other girls, as long as the transgender girl has the ability to keep her body private.”
GSUSA concludes the document by describing itself as a “single-gender organization for girls,” while noting that a child born a girl who identifies as a boy should be involved in dialogue that “supports a positive departure from girl scouting.” As an addendum, GSUSA provides contact information for Gender Spectrum and GLAAD, both pro-homosexual organizations, as recommended external resources for councils.
GSUSA’s fully inclusive policy is manifesting itself in a variety of ways, including:
- Specific LGBT-friendly troops participate in LGBT advocacy.
- Girl Scout troops and councils are marching in pride parades.
- Girl Scout employees directly involved with girl activities and programming publicly advocate for LGBT lifestyles.
- Anecdotal evidence collected by a council employee highlights Girl Scout LGBT experiences.
- Girl Scout camp registration forms allow adults and children to identify as transgender.
- Girl Scout workshop is aimed at girls ages 12 and older, in order to assist efforts to “advocate for your LGBTQ peers” and “the process of coming out.”
Pope Francis recently addressed a gathering of delegates of the International Catholic Conference of Guiding, which included Anna Maria Chavez, the Catholic CEO of GSUSA. In his remarks, Pope Francis challenged Chavez and all delegates that “educational associations such as yours — which are addressed to girls — are absolutely determinant for the future, and your pedagogy must be clear on such questions. We are in a world in which the most contrary ideologies are spreading to the nature and design of God on the family and on marriage. Therefore, it is a question of educating girls not only to the beauty and grandeur of their vocation of women, in a just and differentiated relation between man and woman, but also to assume important responsibilities in the Church and society.” The Girl Scout organization appears to be out of step with the Pope’s thoughts on this issue, which are based on Church teaching.
As this information, in addition to numerous pro-life concerns regarding the Girl Scout organization, becomes more widely known, dioceses are warning priests and parents about these significant conflicts with Church teachings and recommending alternative organizations, such as American Heritage Girls and Little Flowers Girls Club, whose memberships are growing exponentially, while Girl Scouts’ numbers continue to plummet. There is certainly much to consider for those responsible for forming the faith of the future women of our Church.
Ann Saladin writes from St. Louis.
She is the author of the website MyGirlScoutCouncil.com.