Girl Scout cookies: To buy, or not to buy?

| February 5, 2014 | 11 Comments

In the last few years there have been a growing number of pro-life organizations that have been speaking out against Girl Scouts and their ties to a pro-abortion agenda. Internet resources have been distributing information citing connections with Planned Parenthood and calling for a boycott on cookie sales.

While there isn’t a definitive answer here, this does become an issue of moral judgment with many factors. Who would have thought that buying cookies would require moral deliberation? But who ever said being Catholic was easy!

In discerning this Girl Scouts issue, it is important to look at facts and to know your terms. Here is a primer:

• GSUSA – Girl Scouts of the United States: the Girl Scouts organization in the United States. Web page: http://www.girlscouts.org.

• Girl Scout Council – The local representation of leadership. Our archdiocese falls under Girl Scouts River Valleys: http://www.girlscoutsrv.org.

• WAGGGS – World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, a voluntary international organization consisting of 145 countries. GSUSA is a member of WAGGGS

• Girl Scout Troop – The local representation of your Girl Scout group. These are divided by age levels —  Daisies, Brownies, Juniors etc.

Fact, fiction and fuzziness

When looking to the best interest of the girls under your care or deciding whether to support Girl Scouts by purchasing cookies, be aware that some of the Internet resources supporting a ban on cookie sales are based on partial truths or broad accusations. As the pro-life community, when we perpetuate false or fuzzy accusations, we lose credibility to our cause. In some internet reports the work of WAGGGS and Girl Scouts USA are cited as the same entity, or an individual troop’s wayward practices are being portrayed as the norm for all Girl Scout troops. We need to be careful not to malign organizations based on association. Much good comes from our local Girl Scout troops, yet there are grave difficulties in the larger organization. We need to be vigilant without being vigilantes.

The WAGGGS international organization does promote curriculum on human sexuality that is problematic for Catholics of conscience. GSUSA is a member of WAGGGS; yet, the names and the organizations are not interchangeable. One might think of GSUSA’s membership in WAGGGS similar to the United States being a member of the United Nations. Does that mean we shouldn’t buy cookies?

As noted there is much good that comes from our Girl Scout groups. Many of the points of concern arise from GSUSA’s current policies, which allow each council and troop to proceed in any way it feels moved. In some cases, that may mean a troop in California may attend a Planned Parenthood sponsored event. Parents of girls involved in Girl Scouts should be active advocates for their girls. Better yet, they should become Girl Scout leaders. The same freedom that allows individual troops to attend unacceptable events also allows our Catholic girls the freedom to do service projects for the crisis pregnancy centers, work on Catholic faith-based badges or study the horrific problems of the “one-child-only” policy in China.

Should your daughter be a Girl Scout? Should a parish let Girl Scouts sell cookies after Mass?

That decision needs to be based on thoughtful consideration. We make these decisions every day. As good parents we decide what comes into the living room. Some families believe that the bad stuff on TV or the Internet outweighs any good and they choose to not have a TV or a computer in their home. Other families choose to closely monitor such things and teach their children to make sound decisions. We need to respect the judgment made by other parents and our pastors of our parishes when they choose to either support or not support Girl Scouts and cookie sales.

To buy or not to buy…

The decision to purchase Girl Scout cookies becomes an area of prudential judgment on each individual’s conscience. With a prudential judgment, we can agree or disagree on the best way to move forward. Some people may choose to purchase cookies and others may feel the association is too close for comfort.

Everyone has the right to make those decisions based on their discernment and morally formed conscience with the guidance of our priests and Bishops. Does purchasing cookies create a direct line to participating in an immoral act? Our bishops are continuing to look at this issue and are vigilant about guiding us, but there are so many variables. If your troop is taking field trips to Planned Parenthood, then yes, I wouldn’t buy cookies to support that. But that is why we need to know our facts.

If you choose to purchase Girl Scout cookies, why not send a post card to the GSUSA for every box you purchase asking them to change their policies. (See the example and address below.)

In the past few years, GSUSA has changed some policies and removed problematic curriculum from their handbook and web resources. Who knows, with millions of boxes of cookies sold each year, a postcard campaign like this could move them to further action to restore the trust of this century-old institution.

Wilson is respect life coordinator for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Office of Marriage, Family and Life.

Postcard example:

Dear GSUSA,

I am supporting our local Girl Scouts by buying cookies.  I do, however, have concerns with GSUSA and their association with WAGGGS and their resources on human sexuality.  I ask that GSUSA discontinue membership in WAGGGS. I also would like to see standards put into place by GSUSA that restrict individual troops from associating with organizations that support abortion. Girl Scouts has historically promoted strong Christian values, and allowing individual troops to drift from those values discredits what has been an institution I could trust.   

                        Sincerely, ______________________

Mailing address:

Girl Scouts of the USA
420 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10018-2798

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