The Republican War on the Girl Scouts

Last updated on February 8th, 2013 at 02:41 am

If you need to know what’s wrong with American conservatism in the early 21st century you have only to look at their view of the Girl Scouts. You would think that legislatures would want to honor the 100th anniversary of an organization like the Girl Scouts but empowering women isn’t exactly what the patriarchal GOP is about. Even worse from their standpoint is an imagined connection between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood. The end result is that anyone seeking to empower girls and women is radical.

Whoever thought the Girl Scouts would be presented to America as pariahs? But they are; as Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney writes,

But some religious conservatives see something very different: representatives of a dangerous, secular organization that aggressively promotes abortion and quietly encourages paganism, homosexuality and other alleged social ailments.

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If only! Since when did the Girl Scouts become required to align themselves with 21st century Republican political theology?

There is plenty of evidence for this attitude from all over the country. We can start with a fellow from the city I recently escaped (Heathen sanity and soul intact), Rep. Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne). Morris became opposed to the idea of honoring the Girl Scouts because he did a very dangerous thing: he looked at the Internet and did what so many people do: believed what he read.

That’s a big mistake. Don’t even believe me. I’ve said this often enough in many contexts. Look it up yourself. Go to the sources I use and form your own opinion. Find other sources I did not use. Open your mind, challenge your assumptions, and try to get to the facts on the ground.

But Morris didn’t do this, probably because of selective exposure, something directly linked to the authoritarian mindset dominating the Republican Party. Chris Mooney wrote about this the other day, noting that psychologist Robert Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba concludes that authoritarians, “maintain their beliefs against challenges by limiting their experiences, and surrounding themselves with sources of information that will tell them they are right.”

Morris, being of this authoritarian mindset was predisposed to believe the rumors he heard about the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood and he found the evidence to affirm the correctness of his prejudices. As he admits, “After talking to some well-informed constituents, I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing.”

The thing is, he could as easily have found evidence that his “well-informed” constituents were not so well informed at all. But he didn’t look for this evidence. He wasn’t interested in it. He was interested only in evidence that supported his existing prejudices. What self-respecting conservative can admire uppity girls who think they are a good as boys? Pat Robertson sends the message these patriarch-minded conservatives want to hear: “you know big man, you are the boss.” Not the wife. Not the woman.

In a letter to fellow lawmakers, Morris wrote that,

[A]bundant evidence proves that the agenda of Planned Parenthood includes sexualizing young girls through the Girl Scouts, which is quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood instructional series and pamphlets are part of the core curriculum at GSA training seminars. Denver Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley of Denver last year warned parents that “membership in the Girl Scouts could carry the danger of making their daughters more receptive to the pro-abortion agenda.”

He claims the Girl Scouts ” promote homosexual lifestyles” and study “feminists, lesbians, or Communists” as role models while ignoring those with a religious background, citing a noted sensationalist tabloid, World Net Daily, whose journalistic standards are on a par with those of the National Enquirer. On the basis of some very poor research he warns against “extend[ing] legitimacy to a radicalized organization.”

The St. Timothy Catholic Church in Chantilly, Virginia, now says it will not allow the Girl Scouts to use their church as a meeting place or to wear their uniforms on church property (including the St. Timothy School next door). A spokesperson for the diocese released a statement that reads in part: “Every pastor in the diocese has the responsibility to determine how best to use their parish facilities, consider the requests of outside groups, and reconcile such requests with the needs and mission of their parish community,” and according to the diocese, “the pastor did not believe the National Girl Scouts membership to the World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts aligned with the message of the church, stemming from a perceived connection between WAGGGS and Planned Parenthood.” In other words, if the Girl Scouts do not toe the Catholic doctrinal line, they’re not welcome. The Catholic News Agency goes so far as to claim, “The Girl Scouts (GSUSA) has yet to refute even one piece of documented evidence” and concludes that “sponsoring churches like St. Timothy–are right to protest the deception and pull their girls out of the organization.”

In Washington State, Hans Zeiger, a Republican candidate for the State House of Representatives wrote,  before hurriedly taking down this and other of his comments and many other extremist diatribes so he could run for office,

[T]he Girl Scouts allow homosexuals and atheists to join their ranks, and they have become a pro-abortion, feminist training corps. If the Girl Scouts of America can’t get back to teaching real character, perhaps it will be time to look for our cookies elsewhere.

Also taking up this cry was Rep. Wess Keller of Wasilla, who seems to prove the old Biblical cry, “Can anything good come out of Wasilla? Keller, like Morris, was predisposed to dislike the Girl Scouts and for the same reasons. It was not difficult for him to also find affirmation of his prejudices so he pulled a Morris and blocked what should have been a routine resolution in the state legislature to honor the Girl Scout’s 100th anniversary.

This is what Keller had to say to the resolution to honor the Girl Scouts:

“I’m sure you are aware of the information that’s floating around the internet, and I’d like to give you the opportunity to respond to your connection, the Girl Scout connection, with Planned Parenthood and the activist role in that — is there a connection? Is there not? Frankly, I haven’t looked into it but I see it’s out there.”

Like Morris, he didn’t even do a cursory search for actual evidence. He simply trusted what he had heard “floating around.”

The Girl Scouts responded as you would expect: with the truth. Morris had written to his fellow lawmakers that,

The Girl Scouts of America and their worldwide partner, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), have entered into a close strategic affiliation with Planned Parenthood. You will not find evidence of this on the GSA/WAGGGS website—in fact, the websites of these two organizations explicitly deny funding Planned Parenthood.

The reason they deny such funding is that such funding is a myth, the product of fevered conservative imaginations, as the Girl Scouts made clear in their response:

“We take no position on the subjects of birth control or abortion and we believe these topics are best discussed between girls and their families. Neither Girl Scouts of USA, nor Girl Scouts of Alaska has a relationship or partnership with Planned Parenthood.”

It should come as no surprise to Morris that he was the only member not supporting the resolution in Indiana. He might have drawn some conclusions from that if he were more open-minded, more willing to challenge his pre-conceptions and prejudices.

Morris did end up apologizing for his words, but at the same time stands by them. In his letter he said:

“I realize now that my words were emotional, reactionary and inflammatory. For that I sincerely apologize … I certainly should not have painted the entire Girl Scouts organization with such a wide brush.”

As for his lack of evidence, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette reports him as saying, that  the “letter was intended for his legislative colleagues, which is the reason for ‘the lack of research and evidence it contained,'” and that “Had I known this letter would have gone to a wider audience, I would have cited further evidence for my position.”

Yes, because your fellow legislators certainly shouldn’t be made aware of actual facts before they act, only the fruit of your fevered imaginings.

Republicans really don’t know how to make things better with their apologizes. They only make them worse. And that, sadly enough, is in keeping with their resolutions and speeches and op-ed’s and legislation. Bogeymen are everywhere: enter the specter of George Soros! Glenn Beck’s The Blaze righteously objects to a 2010 Girl Scouts of the USA publication about the media, claiming to expose the Girl Scouts for pointing to Media Matters for America to clear up media disinformation. I suppose Beck wants impressionable young girls to trust FOX News instead. So now the Girl Scouts are doubly damned – they want girls to grow up as empowered human beings and they want them to avoid right-wing propaganda. For a Beckian organization to call anyone else “less than objective” is amusing to say the least.

The real reason there is a war on the Girl Scouts is because there is a war on women and if you go after women you have to go after the “hatchlings” as well. As infamous former Methodist minister and missionary Colonel John Chivington said before slaughtering Native American children at Sand Creek in November 1864, “Nits make lice.”

And that seems to be the issue here: if you let little girls grow up feeling good about themselves, empowering them as genuine human beings and not breeding stock for Republican men, you let them grow up as radicalized feminists, meaning “females who they think they’re people too.”

American conservatism can’t have that, so the Girl Scouts have to go. Enter the American Heritage Girls, a wholesome “Judeo-Christian” focused organization, the fate, says Morris, of his own daughters.

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