Dear Surly Amy,
My daughter’s Girl Scout leader has decided she will be changing affiliation to The American Heritage Girls next year.
My daughter can switch and stay with her friends in the AHG troop, go to a different Girl Scout troop and leave her friends behind, or quit both. I have since found out many disturbing facts about AHG; affiliation with BSA, inclusion of liberal amounts of Bible quotes in their guide book, an endorsement by Dr. James Dobson, a requirement to be a US citizen to volunteer, among others.
To say the least I have some misgivings. I don’t want my daughter, an avowed atheist, to be told that she is less than because of her non-belief, or that homosexuality is wrong, or that non-citizens are unworthy, etc. I really want this to be her choice but how do I convey to her the subtle messages that may be used to shape her opinions on an ongoing basis without making it seem that I forbid her to join?
Proud Girl Scout Dad
Dear Proud Girl Scout Dad,
I’m not sure of the age of your daughter but if at all possible I would simply tell her the honest truth of the situation. If she is of an age where you say she can decide on her own to be atheist, I would have to assume that she is smart enough to make a decision on what after-school group she would like to attend.
Another alternative is to give your daughter some options. Camp Quest is a wonderful event that happens over the summer. Perhaps your daughter would like to go there instead? She would be surrounded by freethinking camp leaders and there is a huge new atheist friend potential there. Heck, I would WAY rather go there than sell cookies any day.
If she wants to stay with the Girl Scouts instead of going to American Heritage, let her know that the new Girl-Scout friends she will meet and the good times she will have are SO TOTALLY worth starting over for. Same goes for Camp Quest. Also, let her know that being brave, standing up for what is correct and starting anew is something to be very proud of. And if she decides she really wants to stay with the American Heritage group, remind her not to be bossed around by anyone. She should always think for herself and be proud of who she is.
If she stays with the group have her tell you what happens at each meeting so you can discuss overt religiosity or exclusivity on behalf of the councilor or the planned activities.
I would attempt to convince her of the benefits of starting over with a different group. Leaving your friends can seem really scary at first but forcing religion on a young girl can be even scarier.
I would also, if possible, explain to the ex Girl Scout leader how disappointed you are in her jumping ship and changing the organization. Let the group leader know that her decision is alienating former members and explain that your daughter is not religious. I understand that explaining non-belief is not always an option but as a minority we are often dismissed and it is important to let other people know we exist.
Good luck and I hope this can be a fun and exciting new learning experience for your daughter and not something sad.
More info on Camp Quest is here.
Photos by me.
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