Sunday, November 20, 2011

Girl Scouting and the UUA

Dashed off a letter to the UUA today.  Leaving off the official's name to whom I addressed it, the text of it was as follows:

I am writing to you as a Unitarian Universalist minister and as a Girl Scout Troop Leader and Girl Scout Troop Organizer. I’ve paid attention over many years to the “continuing struggle for inclusiveness” situation between the UUA and the Boy Scouts, as outlined at http://www.uua.org/re/children/scouting/169633.shtml.

I’m proud as a Girl Scout leader that Girl Scouts do not share the Boy Scouts’ discrimination towards atheist and agnostic scouts and troop leaders nor their discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender scouts and troop leaders. Indeed, I proudly tell my Brownie Girl Scouts on a regular basis that the Girl Scout Promise, which includes the word “God,” can be, according to Girl Scouts USA, replaced by any Girl Scout to reflect her own spiritual beliefs. I model this in my troop meetings by replacing the word “God” in the GS Promise with “love,” “earth,” “peace,” and another of other terms.

Similarly, Girl Scouts has recently been in the news for their inclusive policies on transgender Girl Scouts, and has come down on the side of believing that any child who considers herself a Girl and wants to be a Girl Scout is welcome in Girl Scouting. I confirmed this through calling GSUSA directly and asking about transgender girls being welcomed in scouting, and through conversations with my own area coordinator.

That’s why I am disturbed that right under the “UUA and BSA” page on the UUA’s website, the next link is to a list of “Alternative Scouting Organizations,” and that this page then begins with stating “In addition to the popular Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA, there are other scouting organizations.” (http://www.uua.org/re/children/scouting/169569.shtml.) This statement makes it look like the UUA has problems with Girl Scouts similar to the problems with Boy Scouts, and perpetuates a common misunderstanding that Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are related organizations that share common policies and practices, when this is not the case. Girl Scouts ought to be listed as an “Alternative Scouting Organization” along with Camp Fire USA, Navigators USA, Scouting for All, and SpiralScouts. I grew up in Camp Fire, and can say that I have found Girl Scouts every bit as welcoming, if not more so, to girls of regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation or other aspect of diversity. My little troop last year was a group of girls who through themselves and their parents represented every aspect of that list of diversity types, in fact!

I’m hoping the wording on the UUA’s webpage can be changed to represent the positive relationship that the UUA has with Girl Scouting. If you are not the person who this letter should be directed to, please tell me who I can refer this issue to. This March is the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts, and I’ll be highlighting Girl Scouts in our church this year, where several Girl Scouts have earned their “My Promise, My Faith” badge for learning about how the Girl Scout Law relates to the Unitarian Universalist Principles. I would love it if by the 100th anniversary our organization could show more support for this inclusive and supportive scouting institution.

Thank you for your care and attention to this issue.

In faith,

Cynthia Landrum
Minister
Universalist Unitarian Church of East Liberty
Clarklake, MI
Girl Scout Troop Leader & Troop Organizer