The news this week from Scoutland brings controversy over a proposed end to the ban on gay Americans.
But here’s another dirty little secret. The Boy Scouts also officially
discriminate against atheists and agnostics. For much of their history,
the Girl Scouts did, too, but in 1993, the national organization had the
sense to stop this unfair and distinctly un-American practice.
That was too late for me. I was a Brownie in 1978, and wanted to become a Girl Scout. It was not to be.
had a hard time fitting in as a kid. My Sunday school teacher’s eyes
shot daggers at me when, after a lesson on the Virgin Mary, I asked,
“Was Joseph a virgin, too?” I just didn’t take to the religion thing.
Alongside my Bible, I read Bullfinch’s Mythology, and I much
preferred the Greek gods. They fell in love and had adventures and
didn’t seem to take themselves so seriously. There was laughter in
heaven. Jesus was sort of okay – I liked some of his sermons. But the
Bible seemed filled with harsh desert people (mostly men) morbidly
obsessed with death and suffering. What had they to do with me?
I was eight, I became a Brownie and took much pleasure in my crisp
little uniform and close association with mint chocolate cookies. I
vaguely recall winding yarn around popsicle sticks and doing things like
that to prove my craftiness. Like most Brownies, I yearned to join the
green ranks of the Girl Scouts, so I dutifully earned Brownie points in
preparation for the big event when I would be pinned by a troop leader
and accepted into the upper echelon of girldom.
unexpected happened during the Induction Ceremony. The ritual of
transition from Brownie to Girl Scout was very sacred and solemn and
involved, among other things, staring into a pool of water. It also
required me to pledge an oath to God. (You can check out a video of some
little tykes saying it here).
On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country, To help people at all times, And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
pledge didn't sit right with me, for the simple reason that as far as I
could tell, God didn’t exist. To pledge an oath to him would be lying. I
stood frozen when it was time to swear fealty to a non-existent being.
Probably I could have gotten away with just mouthing the words, but a
feeling in the pit of my stomach told me that was wrong. I sheepishly
mumbled my dilemma to the troop leader and she looked at me with the
exasperation adults get when confronting a pint-sized pain in the ass.
“Well, that’s what it takes to be a Girl Scout.” Confused, ashamed, and a
little defiant, I took off my sash and handed it to her.
that. I would never have those illustrious Girl Scout badges for basket
weaving and what not proudly streaming across my chest. The green
uniform would not be mine. Part of me was a little relieved, because I
wasn’t the sportiest of children and joining the Scouts meant proving my
fitness for things like orienteering and riflery. I still like the cookies, though.
Compared to the Boy Scouts, today’s Girl Scouts are known as the more progressive example of youth programming. According to The Atlantic,
the Boy Scouts of America still “expressly prohibits membership (even
as Cub Scouts) of atheists and agnostics.” The Girl Scouts, on the
other hand, are now cool with atheism and have shown a fondness for New Agey tenets. They've even drawn the ire of Catholic bishops. I’ll give them points for that.
I was a Campfire Girl. My daughters were Girl Scouts. I don't recall any mention of God,religion. Why should there be? Girl Scouts can still do good deeds, volunteer.etc. Religious people who talk about God all the time are not necessarily good people who do good deeds. Too many of then sit on their butts and speak with prejudice and feel superior and don't lift a finger to help anyone.