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OPINION - A scandalous lie about Girl Scouts

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  I’m a former Girl Scout leader. When my wife was pregnant with our twins, she wasn’t able to lead our oldest daughter’s daisy troop. So I took over. And I did it for six years – two as a daisy leader, two as a brownie leader, one year as a Girl Scout leader, and then one more with my younger daughter’s daisy troop.

As you may know, there’s a controversy over whether you should buy Girl Scout cookies and whether some of the cookie money goes to pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood. I can tell you that this is a scandalous lie.

I have personally tallied up the money from cookie sales. I can tell you how much money our troops raised, and where it went. Cookie cost $3.50 per box. 99-cents covers the baking and packaging costs. It goes to the commercial bakeries in Michigan or Texas. If your troop makes its cookie sales-goals, the troop keeps 65-cents from each box. The rest goes to the regional Girl Scout office, which organizes things like summer camp and Girl Scout activities. Cookie sales money does not to the national Girl Scouts of America; it stays locally. (In fact, one of the legitimate criticisms of the girl scouts program is that there are “rich” troops that go crazy with cookie sales and get to do very lavish things; trips to Alaska, space camps, white water rafting… and other groups that don’t do as well with cookie sales and have to settle for movie night at the local cinema-plex.) There is no cookie money that gets funneled to Planned Parenthood or anyone else.

I can also tell you that Girl Scouts is a non-partisan, non-political group. I’ve run the program. Pro-life vs. pro-choice, democrat vs. republican, etc. is not part of Girl Scouts at all.

As has been explained many times, the origin of this rumor is an interview with a former national Girl Scout leader who talked about one of the local troops in New York City that did work on a project with Planned Parenthood. They don’t any more. Actually, I understand how this could happen. Local troops are run by volunteers like me – usually a parent of one of the girls. That local troop leader has a great deal of control over what the troop does, what volunteer projects the troop works on, what groups are partnered with. Perhaps one troop is led by a liberal, pro-choice parent. If the troop leader’s choices were inappropriate, they’d be reined in (first, probably, by other parents – and then by upper leadership). My experience is the opposite is true. Many of my fellow Girl Scout leaders were conservative evangelical Christians.

The other part of this controversy is guilt by association. Girl Scouts celebrate the accomplishments of adult women. So when a woman rises to the level of Governor, cabinet member, corporate leader, etc., she’s likely to be held up as an example to other Girl Scouts. Are some of these women pro-choice? Of course. Others are pro-life. Does this constitute an endorsement of all of these women’s’ positions on every issue? Of course not. The more-powerful message for our young daughters is that they can help shape the debate on all of the issues of the day. One of the core themes of the Girl Scouts is that young women can grow up to be or do anything.

And for those people who have been defaming girl scouting: shame on you. A girl scout is far less likely to need those services that Planned Parenthood quietly offers referrals for than a girl who isn’t.

Chris Conley

Image: Girl Scouts pose with a truckload of cookies they delivered to Fort McPherson. The girls helped collect more than 10,000 boxes of cookies to be sent to Soldiers overseas. Photo by: U.S. Army via Wikicommons.com