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By Leo Hohmann
The American Heritage Girls scouting organization has scored a key breakthrough in the culture wars by signing a partnership agreement with one of the nation’s largest Protestant denominations.
The group, billed as a Christ-centered scouting experience for girls, has signed an agreement with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. The partnership was several years in the making, said Pattie Garibay, founder and executive director of AHG, which began in 1995 as an alternative to Girl Scouts.
Garibay signed a one-page memorandum of understanding with LCMS president Rev. Matthew Harrison that was announced May 19.
“It is basically an endorsement, they’re recommending this faith-based program, which is a great scouting program,” said Garibay. “So it was very much a privilege for us. It’s a historic document, because it’s our first with an entire denomination, and we hope it will lead to many more that would like to see a faith-based scouting program that’s fun and safe and Christ-centered.”
American Heritage Girls has grown by 40 percent annually over the past three years, Garibay said, and now has 35,000 scouting members in 780 troops. Still, it’s been tough to get endorsements from large denominations, many of whom sponsor Girl Scout troops in their churches.
Garibay said she has been trying to cultivate agreements with Christian denominations for 10 years but until this week’s announcement had only been successful with the Freewill Baptists, a relatively small denomination.
“Presently, we serve 67 troops of Lutheran girls that incorporate 1,600 girls and we look at this as the door opener to have many, many more in the future, and hopefully other denominations as well,” she said. “They were looking particularly at the importance of a Christ-centered organization for girls and American Heritage fulfills that. They have a strong extra-curricular wing for the girls that will help them grow in their faith.”
WND has reported several times on the increasingly progressive bent of the original Girl Scouts organization, including recently when officials with the Girl Scouts threatened action against groups that were reporting on documented links between the group and Planned Parenthood, the nation’s biggest abortion industry player.
The Missouri Synod has more than 2.3 million members in more than 6,100 congregations, according to its website, and its congregations operate the largest Protestant parochial school system in America. It is the second-largest Lutheran body in the U.S. and the eighth largest Protestant denomination.
“We had been desiring this, hoping for this, for over a decade but really it went on pretty much a faster pace the last year, with Rev. Harrison wanting to move forward on this as a response to the moral collapse of America and as it relates to the American family,” Garibay said. “He feels like this will be like an arrow in their quiver, to help the kids rise up and feel called to a Christian life of integrity.”
Breaking with the Girl Scouts
Garibay spent more than a decade as a leader in the Girl Scouts before founding AHG in 1995 at her kitchen table.
She said that when Girl Scouts USA started waffling on its commitment to serve God, she decided it was time to get out.
“In 1993 the Girl Scouts decided to put an asterisk by God’s name,” she said. “How much longer, if we have to explain the reason for his name, let alone his teachings, could I stay involved (in Girl Scouts)?”
She said starting a new Christian-based scouting program for girls was “not on my bucket list,” but she answered the call and hasn’t looked back.
The AHG is now nearing its 20th anniversary in 2015 and still growing, while membership in the Girl Scouts has been on the decline for years.
WND previously documented Girl Scout ties to the leading abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, which the organization vehemently denies, despite an admission by former GSUSA CEO Kathy Cloninger on the “Today” show.
WND has also reported on the numerous “whistleblower” forums that strive to expose the truth behind the Girl Scouts agenda. One website, SpeakNowGirlScouts.com, says, “This is not your mother’s Girl Scouts any longer,” while documenting the perversion young girls are now being exposed to as Girl Scouts.
A different agenda
A recent development that started at a local troop in Michigan underscores the importance of AHG for Garibay.
“In February we launched a new participation patch called ‘Respecting Life’ that was totally the idea of girls in a troop in the Detroit area,” she said. “They have volunteered with the Special Olympics, they have collected items for their local crisis pregnancy centers and they want to help various pro-life groups do the great work that they do.”
Garibay said 2,500 patches were ordered and every single one has been issued, with more on back order, as other troops have followed the lead of those in Michigan. The girls are now making plans to attend statewide March for Life events as well as the national march in Washington, D.C.
These are the type of opportunities kids and their parents won’t find in Girl Scouts.
Garibay told WND in June 2012 that the growth of AHG has been helped along by controversies within the Girl Scouts.
She said that is still the case today.
“People are coming to us because they are looking for a values-rich experience for their girls,” she said. “They’re seeking a Christ-centered organization for girls. Leaders in American Heritage Girls must agree to a statement of faith. For the girls, we are open to all who take the pledge to ‘Love God, cherish my family, honor my country and serve in my community.’ The values we teach are perseverance, purity, reverence. So parents know what they are getting into. Parents know that when a crisis comes up, our leaders aren’t sticking their fingers up in the breeze to see what is the cultural wind of the day.”
Garibay said she has no ill will toward the 100-year-old Girl Scouts organization, but she wishes the organization would more upfront and honest about its values.
“They are a secular organization, and they serve a wider tent,” Garibay said.
That’s why she expects more church leaders will realize how radical the shift within the Girl Scouts has been and how the values of the church may no longer be reflected in that venerable American institution.
Harrison said in a statement that the LCMS highly regards organizations like the American Heritage Girls because they provide a valuable outlet for young women to carry out their vocations in service to neighbor.
“The AHG respects and supports the LCMS in her desire to serve God and care for His people in a manner that brings glory to Christ, even in this challenging age of moral and cultural collapse in America, especially as it relates to the family,” he said. “We are thankful to enter into this MOU with the American Heritage Girls and look forward to seeing the good that God might bring about from our work together.”
In March 2014, the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Diocese of Kansas City recommended AHG to its congregations. AHG has been endorsed by James Dobson, child psychologist and author. Alveda King, niece of civil-rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and director of African American Outreach for Priests for Life, said, “American Heritage Girls promotes a life-honoring culture, stresses the importance of service and espouses values that clearly delineate right from wrong.”
See some of WND’s reports on American Heritage Girls: