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Challenges to Girl Scout Policies

     None of the challenges to the Girl Scout's membership exclusionary policies have ever reached a state's Supreme Court, much less an appellate court. But that does not mean that there has never been any problems with their membership policies.
     Below are some news reports of incidents that did not garner the national scrutiny as BSA's challenges have:

Sexual Harassment Alleged by Male Girl Scout Ranger Click to go to the top of the page
Sacramento Bee
January 4, 1986

SAN JOSE (AP) - A Girl Scout camp ranger is suing the national organization and local chapter for $1.5 million, alleging he was sexually harassed and slandered by several female counselors who acted in a 'sexually overt' manner toward each other.

An attorney for the man Friday said that the suit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court will be 'a landmark case because it is going to define the limits of what is sex in the workplace and what is not.'

Christopher Morgan, 31, complained in the lawsuit that seven or eight of the more than 30 counselors at the Girl Scout camp in Santa Cruz fondled, stroked and kissed each other and sunbathed without tops in his presence.

He did not allege that he ever saw them engage in sexual activity while undressed or that he ever saw them talk about sex or engage in sex with campers at Skylark Camp, which hosts more than 800 girls ages 6 to 16 each summer.

He also did not name any of the women allegedly involved in 'repeated and continuous' sexual activity with each other since he began working at Skylark in 1981.

Anne Weaver, acting executive director of the Santa Clara County council of the Girl Scouts, said she was stunned by the lawsuit. She said that the group has met with Morgan and his attorney, and has been unsuccessful in obtaining details from Morgan about his claims.

Weaver and council spokeswoman Nancy Fox said that it was illegal to ask job applicants whether they are gay, and that lesbian women were as welcome as heterosexual staff members and volunteers in the Girl Scouts.

A spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of America headquarters in New York said the national organization's policy is similar to that of the local council. Deborah Mason said lesbians are accepted in the Girl Scouts because the organization respects the private lives of its staff and volunteers.

Morgan and his wife, Shirley, said in the suit that female counselors and staff talked about sex, made sexual overtures and actions toward each other, and displayed themselves nude and seminude in the Morgans' presence.

Morgan also alleged that he was disparaged because he is male, made to do disagreeable chores that were not part of his job, such as cleaning up horse manure, and was slandered by repeatedly being called 'a fat, male chauvinist pig.'

The suit asks $500,000 for discrimination, $500,000 for intentional infliction of emotional distress and $500,000 for slander. The suit also asks $25,000 in back overtime and medical expenses for emotional and physical suffering. His attorney said Morgan suffered upset stomachs, loss of sleep and nervousness because of the camp activities.

'He was harassed in the way he had to be subjected to seeing these actions,' said Morgan's attorney, Rita Risser. 'The definition of sexual harassment is that you are subjected to sex in the workplace.'

 

Girl Scouts consider altering pledge to God
Fort Worth Star-TelegramClick to go to the top of the page
January 19, 1992

SEATTLE - Friedrich Nietzsche sparked a furor more than 100 years ago when he declared that God is dead. Now, some local Girl Scout leaders want to declare God optional.

Their efforts have sparked a 1990s flurry that may embroil Girl Scout councils nationwide.

Leaders of the Seattle-based Totem Girl Scout Council are proposing to change or make optional the part of the Girl Scout promise in which girls pledge "to serve God." The council represents more than 16,000 Scouts and 6,000 adult volunteers in western Washington.

Having been rebuffed already in an effort to change the pledge just for their council, Totem leaders are taking their case nationwide. Letters have been sent to councils in every major city asking whether they'll support such a change at the next national Girl Scout meeting in 1993.

Laurie Stewart, president of the Totem board of directors, said the council began to examine the promise early last year, after the Boy Scouts of America was sued by parents of three would-be Cub Scouts turned away for being atheists. Those lawsuits have not been settled.

About the same time, she said, the local council was making a special effort to reach out to communities, such as Indian tribes and Southeast Asian immigrants, that haven't had many Girl Scouts in the past.

"We want to serve as many girls as possible and encourage diversity ," Stewart said, "and we believe reciting the promise may be a barrier for some girls."

No specific complaint prodded the council to reexamine the promise, Stewart said.

But the effort to alter the 80-year-old Girl Scout promise has brought some angry local troop leaders to respond with their own proposal: Leave the promise alone.

"Why do we have to change to accommodate everybody?" asked Lisa Tracy, who leads a troop of 5- and 6-year-old Daisy Girl Scouts in Redmond, east of Seattle.

Tracy said she and some other troop leaders may leave if the organization changes the promise or makes a pledge to God optional.

Girls must recite the promise when they become members and whenever they rise from one rank to the next. Some troops also recite it at the start of every meeting.

The Totem Council, which moved with no media attention in July to make the promise optional in the region, also has opposition from the national organization.

"One council out of 333 can't just make this unilateral decision to junk the Girl Scout promise," said Bonnie McEwan, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., based in New York City. If the Totem board wanted a change, she said, it would have to seek an amendment to the Girl Scout constitution at the next national council meeting.

Under pressure and protest, the Totem council rescinded its decision in August and began discussing a proposed amendment. A panel will meet to draft a formal proposal this weekend, said Totem council spokeswoman Robin Teater.

For now, reciting the promise remains mandatory.

"Girl Scouting is not Girl Scouting without that commitment," McEwan said. "If a girl doesn't feel she can make that promise, she doesn't have to join."

But Carol Cooper, who has two daughters in the troop of Brownies and Cadet Girl Scouts that she leads in the Olympic Peninsula town of Sequim, disagrees.

"I don't think it's fair to exclude girls who don't identify that power as their personal savior," she said.

Cooper, a member of the Makah Tribe, has joined the Totem council panel drawing up a proposed change. She says her Indian belief in a higher spiritual power is not the same as the Christian God to which she believes the promise refers.

Debbie Terry-Hays, the Totem council's membership director, said several members of a Seattle Laotian group to whom she spoke about starting a Girl Scout troop told her that the promise posed a problem for them, because as Buddhists they don't believe in a Christian God.

But McEwan says, "Many members of the Girl Scouts are Native Americans, Buddhists or Hindus who don't have any problem with the promise. As far as saying God is a Judeo-Christian concept, I don't know where that comes from."

Sue Donohue, a Renton Senior Girl Scout troop leader in charge of the proposal panel, doesn't see why having an option should raise so much ire.

In many countries, she notes, Girl Scouts - or Girl Guides, as they're sometimes known - recite promises that either don't mention God at all or make a reference optional. Those include France, Denmark, Germany and India.

OC lawyer moves battle over oath to Girl Scouts - Man who won suit for sons now backing Daisy hopeful
The Orange County Register Click to go to the top of the page
November 19, 1992
Pat Brennan

An Anaheim Hills lawyer who successfully sued the Boy Scouts of America for religious discrimination on behalf of his twin sons is back in business - and this time, he's going after the Girl Scouts.

James Randall, who last year won his sons the right to be Scouts even though they refuse to say the word "God" in their Scout oath, filed suit Tuesday against a San Diego Girl Scout troop on behalf of a Calexico girl.

The issue in the case bears a striking resemblance to the one that propelled Randall's boys, William and Michael, to talk-show stardom.

The girl's family contacted Randall after their 6-year-old daughter, Nitzya Cuevas-Macias, was allegedly kept out of Scout meetings for refusing to pledge to serve God, part of the Girl Scout promise.

The girl's parents are atheist, Randall said, and do not want Nitzya to take what they consider a religious oath.

"I believe her parents are raising her with the understanding that there is no God," Randall said Wednesday, a day after obtaining an emergency court order to keep Nitzya in her Daisy troop, the youngest division of the Girl Scouts.

The order prevents Girl Scout leaders from trying to exclude Nitzya from meetings.

But Deborah Miller, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts' San Diego -Imperial Valley Council, said Wednesday that she could not comment on whether the troop will obey the order.

Miller said Girl Scouts must make the Scout promise and accept Scout rules. Miller declined to answer directly whether members must believe in God to stay in the Girl Scouts. But in a letter to Randall, Patricia D. Winterer, a deputy national executive director of the Girl Scouts, said the organization - which is separate from the Boy Scouts - does not require a belief in God.

Instead, the letter said, girls must accept the importance of spiritual awareness "in whatever way the individual may seek it."

The court order is designed to stop Scout leaders from taking action against Nitzya until the judge in the case can consider the matter further.

Randall said he is pressing the new case partly because of what he called aggressiveness on the part of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, and others who are calling for a boycott of companies that withdrew funding from the Boy Scouts after learning of policies excluding homosexuals and those who don't believe in God.

"This is a spit-in-their-eye reaction from me," Randall said.

Girl Scout troop ordered to readmit atheist
The Orange County Register
December 22, 1992 Click to go to the top of the page
Pat Brennan

The Girl Scouts must readmit a 6-year-old Calexico girl kicked out after her atheist parents said they did not want her to take religious oaths, according to a court order obtained by Orange County lawyer James Randall.

Randall, who last year took on the Boy Scouts of America on behalf of his twin sons, now represents the parents of Nitzya Cuevas-Macias, who will rejoin a troop of Daisy Scouts as a result of the order issued by a San Diego Superior Court judge Friday. The order will remain in place until the matter goes to trial. A date has not been scheduled.

Randall, of Anaheim Hills, said he hopes the two sides can reach a settlement.

"We really do want to settle," Randall said. "We've agreed to waive all attorney fees if the matter can be settled before Christmas Eve."

The question in the case is similar to that posed by his twin sons: Do the requirements that members have spiritual beliefs amount to religious discrimination, in conflict with the state's civil-rights act?

Randall won the right to return his boys to a troop, although the case is still being appealed by the Boy Scouts.

Meanwhile, the Girl Scouts, a separate organization, appear to be fighting Randall's efforts as vigorously as the Boy Scouts.

Nitzya allegedly was kept out of Girl Scout meetings because she would not pledge to serve God.

Girl Scout attorney Kristine Wilkes said the court order probably will be appealed, but declined to comment further.

Sex Claims Drive Rift in Scout Council
Miami HeraldClick to go to the top of the page
February 11, 1995
Associated Press

Accusations of sexual material on lesbianism and a computer bulletin board have created a rift among Girl Scout leaders and parents in four Florida Panhandle counties.

The controversy was discussed at a three-hour meeting that included two national Girl Scout officials and about 60 Panhandle women Wednesday night in this island resort community. It broke up when at least 10 accusers stormed out.

Parents and leaders from Fort Walton Beach and other Okaloosa County communities have made the accusations and are circulating a petition to separate Okaloosa and Walton counties from the Northwest Florida Girl Scout Council based in Pensacola.

Such a move would leave Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in the existing council and create a new one for the other two counties.

"We want to protect the image of the Girl Scout program," said Niceville service unit manager Anne McMullen, who advocates the separation.

The accusers claim a counselor promoted lesbianism by distributing literature at a Girl Scout camp in DeFuniak Springs. They also claim that a regional council official has operated a computer bulletin board offering adult entertainment.

"If we don't stand up against this immorality, we're just as bad as they are," said Lynn Fellenz, a separation leader and former unit manager.

At the meeting, Jan Williams, a representative from the Girl Scouts of the USA National Council, said appropriate action had been taken on the computer matter based on a lawyer's advice. On the lesbian issue, she said only that it is a violation of Girl Scout policy to promote any form of sexuality.

"You cannot and will not know what remedy has been taken on those issues," she said.

There also has been dissension about some recent personnel decisions by the regional council, but national volunteer representative Cleo Coleman promised its practices would improve.

Dissidents walked out when Cindy Bailey, executive director of the Northwest Florida Council, denied knowledge of the campground lesbianism incident.

Vermont Girl Scouts Oust 3 Volunteers in Clash on Policies
Boston GlobeClick to go to the top of the page
May 28, 1996
Associated Press

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Three Girl Scout volunteers have been ousted after clashes with the Swift Water Girl Scout Council over policies the volunteers contend allow lesbians and atheists into the organization.

Two of the former leaders are calling upon churches that sponsor Girl Scout troops to stop allowing the group to meet in their halls. About 20 percent of the 16,000 Girl Scouts and 4,000 adult volunteers in the council, which includes New Hampshire and eastern Vermont, meet in church facilities.

At the heart of the controversy is a Girl Scouts of the USA policy statement that says Girl Scouts do not discriminate against or endorse any life style or religion. But the statement also says that individuals decide whether they want to be members by making the Girl Scout Promise.

The pledge reads: "On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout law."

In 1993 the Girl Scouts voted to allow flexibility in the wording of the pledge regarding religious beliefs.

Regarding lesbians, the policy says: "The Girl Scout organization does not discriminate, but we do not endorse any particular life style and we do not recruit lesbians as a group. . . . We do not permit sexual displays of any sort by our members. We do not permit the advocacy or promotion of a personal life style or sexual orientation. These are private matters for girls and their families to address. Girl Scout volunteers and staff must at all times serve as appropriate role models for girls.

Some groups objected, including several deacons at Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, which until January sponsored Troop 2009.

In January, Rev. John Kuespert, who was serving as interim pastor at the time, notified the Swift Water Council, and then-troop leader Pamela Boulter, that the troop no longer could meet at the Hampstead church because church doctrine conflicts with Girl Scout policies.

Boulter says the policy statements were not included in any of the documents she received when she became a Girl Scout leader.

Boulter, a Catholic, said she was told she would have to re-sign her leader's contract, stating that she supported all Girl Scout policies. She refused and was terminated as a leader.

Boulter's assistant leader also received a letter of termination after she said she could not support the same policies.

"The way I look at it, Girl Scouting was founded on a promise to serve God and country, not fill-in-the-blanks," Boulter said. She contends the new flexibility allows someone to substitute witchcraft or atheism for worship of God.

Georg-Ann Duval, who had been a troop leader at St. Anthony Church in Manchester, said she found that the Scouts' statements on abortion, birth control and sex education bothered her.

She said she wrote letters to several parishes asking them to stop allowing the Girl Scouts to meet at their churches. She also spoke at a Christian Coalition meeting in Manchester where she was promoted as "Girl Scout Leader."

Duval said a few days later she received a letter from the Girl Scouts lawyer to stop representing herself as such and then was ousted from the organization.

Martha Netsch, a spokeswoman for the Swift Water Council, said, "We have two people who disagree with us, and they have a right to.
 

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