Christian Alternative to Secular Girl Scouts Growing, Expanding

American Heritage Girls (AHG), a Christian alternative to Girl Scouts, has entered a new phase of growth this month with plans to expand to all 50 states by 2008.

The 12-year-old organization offering girls programs that are God-centered has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years while large secular organizations such as t Girl Scouts have declined in membership.

"Parents are looking for programs that complement their family's values, not contradict them," said Patti Garibay, executive director of AHG, according to Focus on the Family's CitizenLink.

Parents raised concern when the Girl Scouts changed their pledge in 1993, permitting girls to replace "God" with "words they deem more appropriate" while reciting the Girl Scout Promise. Originally, the pledge included "serve God."

Girl Scout leaders said the measure "acknowledges growing religious and ethnic diversity" among the millions of Girl Scout members.

Membership has dropped from 2.8 million girls in 2002 to 2.7 million in 2006, according to Girl Scouts of America. The national group plans to combat the decline by restructuring and refocusing its mission beginning October 2008.

Meanwhile, AHG, which is currently in 33 states with over 6,000 members, continues to grow and aims to build troops in every state and grow to 7,500 members in the next year.

The organization is committed to "building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country."

In a culture that has the spotlight on Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears – often labeled by media as girls gone wild – AHG encourages "women of manners" to unite.

"It is time that women with a strong moral compass and high self-respect serve as role models for today's girls, interrupting their lives in a counter-culture fashion," said Garibay in a statement released by AHG. "It is time that we quit shaking our heads in disbelief, hiding our children under our skirts and take action!

"Our nation's daughters desperately need to know that they are worthy of respect and need not be slaves of this culture."

AHG's growth comes amid a larger movement of young women returning to modesty. Wendy Shalit, author of Girls Gone Mild, calls it a modesty revolution with young women largely driven by their faith.

American Heritage Girls was founded in 1995 in West Chester, Ohio, by a group of parents wanting a wholesome scouting program for their daughters. The non-profit organization offers merit badge programs, service projects, girl leadership opportunities and outdoor experiences to its members.