The XX Factor

Baseless Christian-Right Attacks on the Girl Scouts (Yes, the Girl Scouts) Go Big Time

Adorable Girl Scouts selling cookies or abortions?

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

For years now, hardcore Christian-right activists have had it out for the Girl Scouts. Yes, the Girl Scouts, which has been characterized by Christian-right groups and media sources as a radical feminist cult intent on kidnapping your daughters to make them lesbian abortion fanatics who probably don’t even shave. I reported on the anger and hostility toward the Girl Scouts for Slate in 2011, and since then, it’s only grown worse. In 2012, Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins suggested that liberals use Girl Scouts to indoctrinate kids because they’re “not having kids so they want to make sure they can get our kids.” Radio host Kevin Swanson denounced the Girl Scouts in 2013 for not providing a model of “godly womanhood” and equating support for the Girl Scouts with support for lesbianism, Planned Parenthood, and abortion.

Now anti–Girl Scout forces have really hit the big time, getting a chance to make their case on Fox News. Back in December, the Girl Scouts’ Twitter account tweeted out a link to a HuffPo Live discussion about the influential women of 2013, asking, “Is there anyone you’d add to this list?” Upon discovering that Wendy Davis, object of much right-wing hate, was mentioned in passing in the discussion that followed (one that largely centered around championing the cause of Malala Yousafzai), Christian-right activists seized the day. Pro-lifers created a website demanding a boycott—sorry, a “CookieCott”—of Girl Scout cookies (“We boycott now because of Girl Scout praise for Wendy Davis and Kathleen Sebelius. And because of a deep and lasting entanglement with abortion providers and abortion rights organizations”), and Megyn Kelly hosted a discussion of the issue that demonstrated shockingly high levels of bad faith even by Fox News standards. Ellison Barber of the Washington Free Beacon argued, with a straight face, that linking to an article about many prominent women, one who happens to have famously stood up for abortion rights, constituted a violation of the Girl Scouts policy to supposedly take no position on “human sexuality, birth control and abortion.”

Here is the FAQ sheet Barber was likely referencing, and it’s depressing to realize that many of the questions on it are attempts to address the fears of parents who have received breathless emails from paranoid Christian-right activists insinuating that Girl Scout meetings are abortion orgies.

To summarize: Girl Scouts tweeted out a link to a panel discussion about the impact women had in the world in 2013. Within that discussion, a woman who is a mainstream politician with mainstream views held by one of the two major political parties in the country was mentioned. This was extrapolated into an “endorsement” of Wendy Davis by the Girl Scouts as pretext to launch a boycott of the organization. The word stretch seems to be understating the case here, and yet the Girl Scouts felt the need to apologize in a blog post on Wednesday, saying, “To be clear, Girl Scouts has not endorsed any person or organization.” But as that was already obvious, it’s deeply unlikely that this will call the dogs off.

After all, the previous claims that the Girl Scouts have some secret pro-sex and pro-abortion agenda have been just as baseless. The biggest accusation routinely levied is that, at a U.N. conference on women and girls, a “graphic sex guide” was being distributed to girls in a “no adults allowed” meeting by the Girl Scouts. This, as I reported in 2011, did not happen, and no one who was there saw any such graphic sex guide. It’s clear that what’s going on here is that these Christian-right activists have a pre-existing distaste for the Girl Scouts and their generic mission of empowering girls, and that these wild stories are nothing but an attempt to rationalize that feeling. This Wendy Davis story is just more of the same.