Mary Valle:  Someone at USCCB HQ has finally clicked on the links to anti-Girl Scout material on the web (for instance, here and here).  Some Americans are upset because of alleged “ties” between GSUSA and Planned Parenthood. Some demand that GSUSA leave WAGGS (the international organization of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides) over WAGGS’ statement of support for sex education.

It seems a lot of the hysteria comes back to portrayals of little feminist robots selling cookies to fund abortions, when they’re not having a lot of “explicit” sex ed shoved down their throats.

Let me assure you, that is not the case. I don’t even want to get into all the allegations. It makes me tired. I have a daughter in the Scouts. Last year her troop voted to use their cookie money to make packages for babies in the pediatric hospital (socks, hard plastic toys, pacifiers.) They also cut and decorated fleece blankets for shelter kittens and purchased personal care items (toothpaste, deodorant, lotion) and sent them to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq along with beautifully decorated hand-written notes.

I didn’t know what the girls were going to come up with. I was absolutely floored by their letters. “Thank you for being brave,” “Thank you for keeping us safe,” “I hope you are not too scared,” “We love you.” My daughter received a lovely letter back from a soldier, which is pinned to the bulletin board in her room.

We’ve been camping. We’ve marched in a Christmas parade. We’ve sold cookies. It’s a neighborhood troop with girls from many schools, different backgrounds and religions. When we’re not out in the field, we meet in a multipurpose room at a Methodist church. The church people are always very kind and invite us to all kinds of social gatherings. (Point: Methodists.)

“Make the Girl Scouts Clean Again” is one Facebook page featuring links to such material. To you, I’d like to say this. The Girl Scouts are not “dirty” and please stop shaming them. Shaming us. If Catholics and other Christians want to officially leave the Girl Scouts, you are free to do so. Girls who would be forbidden from being Scouts would be the real losers in this equation, but good luck with your American Heritage Girls (only open to “Judeo-Christians”) and super-fun sounding “Little Flowers.”

Some people seem positively apoplectic that Girl Scouts are giving “explicit” and “pro-abortion” sex ed to the girls. I haven’t seen any of it. But lurid gossip about girls is something that might stick, no matter what the outcome of the bishops’ “inquiry” is. People repeat rumors as fact. “Cookie money supports abortions” is one of the ideas that gets doors slammed in girls’ faces. It’s a form of slut-shaming and it is vicious. I’m already sad that an innocent search for Girl Scout uniforms turned up some rather disturbing material on the internet — the Bishops seem, in their own way, to be eyeing Girl Scouts through the same lens. Ironic, considering that the Roman Catholic Church has had a global child-rape “problem” for decades. Bishops, let me say this. Girl Scouts are not the world’s greatest threat regarding inappropriate sexual content and kids.

My suspicion is that what Girl Scouts really do — encourage girls to become leaders by making their own decisions, learning practical skills and supporting each other as “sisters” is the actually offensive thing. Sex ed and/or abortion is mere red meat tossed out to get people on the offensive — on the offensive against our own girls, against one of the greatest things America still has going for it, against generations of girls singing around campfires, learning to manage money, standing up tall with their achievements pinned to their sleeve, amongst others who are not exactly like them.

Juliette Gordon Low sought to erase the arbitrary distinctions of race and class through action and sisterhood, and managed to set off a worldwide movement which endures, troop by troop, song by song, friend to friend. One hundred years ago the Girl Scout movement was met with much scoffing and disdain. They were doing things — hiking, camping, using knives — that civilized “ladies” shouldn’t do. As the Girl Scouts prepare to celebrate their centennial in our nation’s capital, they are still being met with derision and contempt. What’s so scary about little girls, I wonder? Given the right opportunities, they will become powerful women.