Monday, April 7, 2003

Scouting the way it used to be



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In the beginning, there was Rush. Then Limbaugh begat "fair and balanced" Fox News. Now there's even a conservative alternative for Girl Scouts: American Heritage Girls, with chapters in 20 states.

And it all started in West Chester, when a few moms came to the conclusion that the Girl Scouts were giving God the bum's rush.

About 10 years ago, the Girl Scouts began to allow substitution of other deities to be named later in their promise. "If a girl believes in a different deity, that is all right to use a different word," said Great Rivers Girl Scouts Assistant Executive Director Roni Luckenbill.

Insert deity here

For example, "Allah." Or "Buddha."

That triggered a mutiny among some local Girl Scout leaders. "We tried to put a conservative on the board, but they wouldn't let our candidate speak,'' said Patti Garibay of West Chester, a former Girl Scout leader who is founder and executive director of AHG. "That's when we decided we cannot make any changes in this group.''

So, like "red Bush" Americans fed-up by liberal bias in the "blue Gore" media, they created an alternative.

It has everything but the cookies.

Garibay said AHG puts more emphasis on service and patriotism, "and the religious component is much, much stronger."

Girls are welcome from any faith. But AHG leaders must be Christians, she said.

They "get away"' with that politically incorrect rule by accepting no funds from organizations such as United Way that sometimes apply political conformist pressure. And they are chartered by private schools and churches, to avoid retaliation such as the Boy Scouts have endured for refusing to accept homosexual Scout leaders.

"We wanted something wholesome, with conservative values - Scouting as it used to be, frankly,'' says Garibay.

She says the Girl Scouts have drifted too close to gay leaders and a pro-choice agenda.

Luckenbill says that's not true. The official policy says, "The Girl Scouts value diversity and inclusiveness," but "we do not permit the advocacy or promotion of a personal lifestyle or sexual orientation. ..."

And, "The Girl Scouts organization does not take a position on abortion or birth control."

"We understand the Girl Scouts is not for every family. If families make another choice, that's fine with us," Luckenbill said.

Small but growing

At this point, AHG, with 1,800 members nationwide, is hardly a threat to the Girl Scouts, which has 23,469 Scouts in this area alone, not including Northern Kentucky.

But AHG has grown from a kitchen-table dream to a national network with an office and a staff of nine. Dozens of e-mails come in every day, Garibay said.

Contrary to the hysteria on the left, Rush and Fox haven't taken over the world. They just offer a choice for another point of view. Just like the American Heritage Girls.

I think that's called diversity.

E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.




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Scouting the way it used to be

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