- (Photo: American Heritage Girls Facebook)
The American Heritage Girls, a Christian alternative to The Girl Scouts, is continuing to expand across the U.S. and the world, taking up the pro-life cause where others have not.
"They (The Girl Scouts) say they take no position and when one takes no position, they do take a position. That's a concern for me as a leader of a girls organization," said Patti Garibay, executive director of American Heritage Girls, in an interview with TheBlaze on Wednesday. "These are issues that girls do have to deal with – and if you're going to be a character-driven program … [abortion] is an issue that we can't just sweep under the carpet."
The group has grown in membership more than 40 percent in the past few years, with its 32,000 members spread across all 50 states and 14 countries. The Girl Scouts, on the other hand, while much larger in terms of membership, has seen a drop from 2.8 million members in 2003 to 2.2 million in 2013.
Janice Crouse, senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, told The Christian Post in an October 2013 interview that the decline in The Girl Scouts membership when it comes to Christians is due to its policy on sexual morality, which focuses on self-discovery and protection rather than abstention.
"The Girl Scouts for a long time have been promoting an agenda that is contrary to what they were 10, 15 years ago," Crouse said.
The Girl Scouts has been accused of staying silent on controversial topics such as abortion, arguing that these are private issues that need to be discussed at home with the family. Though silent, the organization reportedly has ties to pro-abortion advocates and groups such as HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Planned Parenthood. Pro-life groups are boycotting Girl Scout cookies this year with "Cookie Cott."
The American Heritage Girls, meanwhile, has stated that its mission is to promote conservative family values.
"The goal of the group is to build women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country. Note the emphasis on God. That distinction alone separates them out from the Girl Scouts. The Heritage Girl Oath restates that allegiance to God as well. 'I promise to love God, Cherish my family, Honor my country, and Serve in my community,'" radio talk show host Janet Parshall pointed out earlier.
As part of its pro-life focus, the American Heritage Girls unveiled a "Respect Life" merit badge for girls, encouraging members to get involved in pro-life activities, such as participating in a March for Life rally, helping collect diapers for pregnancy centers, or helping people at hospice houses.
"They really wanted to have something that would recognize those efforts … there was even a troop up in Michigan that created their own patch," Garibay said, noting the badge fits with the group's "biblical worldview that respects life."
"[We respect] life and we put our beliefs into action. And we're very clear about what we stand for. American Heritage Girls would be a great landing spot to become a woman of integrity," she added.