In 2005 I created An Unschooling Life, a blog detailing our unschooling experience after adopting our three children. Over time, An Unschooling Life became a hub for unschooling support and advice. The blog has been featured in print and digital media and was home to the popular Unschooling Carnival (later known as Unschooling Voices). I’m in the process of updating and moving all the posts to this blog where they will be housed under the An Unschooling Life section. This post was originally published on January 22, 2008.
If you read this blog with any frequency, you know that both of my daughters really enjoy Girl Scouts. As a matter of fact, Jacqueline is a five-year girl scout, starting when she was a daisy, she’s now a junior.
One thing I appreciate about the Girl Scouts is they don’t affiliate themselves with any one religion. Although the word god is in their promise, their policy is “Since the Girl Scout organization makes no attempt to interpret or define the word ‘God’ but encourages members to establish for themselves the nature of their spiritual beliefs, it is the policy of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. that individuals when making the Girl Scout Promise may substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs for the word ‘God’.”
They go on to say “The Girl Scout organization does not endorse or promote any particular philosophy or religious belief. Our movement is secular and is founded on American democratic principles, one of which is freedom of religion”.
Jacqueline and Shawna attended summer camp with the girl scouts this past July and had a really great time. A couple of weeks ago, we were discussing camp for this coming year and Jacqueline told me something she had forgotten about from this past camp.
It seems that Jacqueline, while talking to some of the girls, exclaimed “Oh my god” to something that was said. So what’s the problem you may wonder. Nothing, as far as I can see. Except one of the camp leaders didn’t approve.
Let me share my letter to our local Girl Scout Council about this matter.
My two daughters are both long-time girls scouts who are very active within their community. My nine-year-old is a five-year scout, starting when she was a daisy and is now a junior girl scout.
I sent both of them to the summer camp past summer where they both had a great time. Recently, while talking about her experience, my youngest informed me of a situation that came up that I wasn’t aware of before.
It seems that while in a conversation with some of the other girls, my daughter exclaimed “oh my god” to something that was said. The camp leader told my daughter she wasn’t allowed to say that, corrected her in front of everybody and told her from now on she’s to say “oh my gosh”.
I explained to my daughter that she was not wrong and the leader had no right to correct and censor her. I told her that saying “oh my god” is a matter of personal and religious preference and that the leader had no right to expect her to believe in the same thing as her. I told her to speak up if that ever happened again and not to be afraid to disagree when she feels someone is imposing their religious views on her. We talked about how there is no one right way for everyone and that the leader should have known that.
I feel that the camp leader forced her own religious beliefs on my daughter by censoring and correcting her. Those are her own personal beliefs and not beliefs held by my family. Personally, I wonder if she would have done that to me, as another adult but I doubt it. Will this be a problem for this year’s camp? Are camp leaders going to impose their own personal religious views on my children?
And the reply I got.
I received your email regarding your concern for your daughter and her camp experience from last summer. I appreciate you bringing your concerns to me and I am sorry that your daughter was just now able to share her experience with you. You are correct in the information that you shared about having the right to have her own personal religious beliefs. I appreciate the lesson you shared with her regarding this topic and encouraging her to speak up when a situation like this happens. Particularly if the information is being shared by adults in an impressionable role like a camp counselor or a leader volunteering for Girl Scouts. It is important that all our beliefs are respected.
I am really sorry that your daughter had a negative experience. The issue is a training issue with my staff and though I cannot promise that a situation like that will not come up again, I can assure you that the staff will have training on this subject area and will be expected to adhere to the policies of Girl Scouts. I do hope that your daughter attends camp again this summer. If I can assist you in any way in the future please do not hesitate to let me know. Thank you again for bringing this to my attention.
I’m satisfied with their reply and we looked upon this whole situation as a learning experience. My girls and I had several interesting discussions because of this on topics such as censorship, religion, tolerance, and authority. I want my daughters to understand that just because someone is an adult who may be in a position of authority (coach, troop leader, etc), that doesn’t mean that everything they say or do is correct and to be followed.
It’s also important to me to be a role model for my children and by standing up for what I believe in. Because my children spent a long time in foster care before we adopted them, they had been raised to listen to and not question adults. While some parents may want this type of behavior, I don’t want them to blindly follow what someone tells them, just because that person happens to be an adult.
Erin Laney says
I absolutely loved this post. I had a similar experience with my son, at his preschool, which was a secular, nature-based play program. His teacher would constantly correct him when he would say, “Oh my God,” (which he learned from another student at the school.) She was very adament, and rude, and would insist he say, Oh my gosh.” I so wish that I had found the words, and the courage to speak up for my son’s rights in the way that you did for your daughter. You have truly inspired me! In the future, I will think of your letter, and the way you stood up for your family. Thank you!
Yes…I avoided it while Josh was a cub. However, Sam needed me so much during the meetings, that I thought I should at least do the training so I could be involved (and curb all the mean controlling moms and dad that have to hang around with the littlest scouts)
You just took training to be a boy scout leader? That’s great! Is your son a scout?
Boy scouts is the same way. We just had a discussion in our unschooling group, and one dad was very negative about scouts because of the ‘religion’. SInce I had just been through leadership training, I was quite confident in saying that boy scouts as an organization is very open to religious differences.
Hi Laura. Yes, I was happy with their response also. My daughters really love being involved with Girl Scouts and I would have hated for this sitation to ruin it for them.
What a great response from your council.
We have a few girls in my troop (i’m a Brownie leader) who substitute the word god and one who completely leaves that line out. It makes me happy that its ok. 🙂