Bahai News - Girl Scouting opens doors for the faithful
Girl Scouting opens doors for the faithful
Programs for many denominations help participants strengthen their
By Kristen Holland
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
DALLAS -- Lindsey Moore celebrates Mass regularly, goes to confession
and crosses herself when she passes a cathedral.
Raised Catholic, the college sophomore has always considered faith a
vital part of her life. But it's a secular organization, the Girl Scouts
of the United States of America, that she credits with deepening her
Moore has completed all but two of the Girl Scouts' religious recognition
programs for Catholics. The rigorous requirements she had to meet for
each helped her appreciate and understand her religion better, she said.
"It's more in-depth than anything I learned in church," she said.
The programs are offered as one avenue for Scouts to live up to their
promise to serve God. Girls of most faiths -- from Buddhist and Baha'i
to Lutheran and Episcopalian -- have the opportunity to earn awards
tailored to their religions through the Scouting program.
Exact numbers aren't available because the Girl Scout organization
doesn't organize or lead the programs. That's up to the various faith
For example, the National Jewish Girl Scout Committee organizes the
Jewish programs, and the National Federation for Catholic Youth
Ministries puts on the Catholic ones. The Catholic Diocese of Dallas
runs programs specific to the diocese.
Moore said that every year "there are hundreds of girls in the area
working on projects." She spent eight weeks helping a dozen second- and
third-grade girls complete the Family of God program for her Girl Scout
Gold Award project.
The Gold Award is the highest honor in Girl Scouts and is considered
equivalent to the Boy Scouts of America's Eagle Scout award.
The Girl Scouts organization, based in New York, approves the programs
for Scouts of all ages and faiths and allows members to display the
recognition medals on their uniforms.
The Boy Scouts organization, based in Irving, Texas, follows similar
guidelines regarding its religious programs.
Both organizations include references to religion in their promises but
say the wording is meant to encourage participants to study their
families' faith traditions.
Members of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Camp Fire Boys and Girls
Border many of their program materials through P.R.A.Y. -- Programs of
Religious Activities with Youth -- a nonprofit organization based in St.
Louis, Mo., that also runs its own God and Country program.
Debbie Hazelwood, assistant director for P.R.A.Y., said the medals
aren't just things to attach to a sash or vest.
"The pin or the medal that they wear is a way for that Girl Scout to
fulfill the first part of the promise -- to serve God," she said.
Hilary Block, 13, completed the Bat Or award, a program for Jewish
Scouts, at Congregation Beth Torah. She said she loves being able to
wear the religious emblems on her uniform.
Attending synagogue and observing Jewish holidays didn't mean much to
her until she completed the Bat Or program, Hilary said. "Afterwards,
I started asking to go to services," she said.
Bat Or (the Hebrew phrase means daughter of light) is designed for
Junior Girl Scouts: fourth- through sixth-graders. The girls learn about
festivals and holidays, the Torah, the synagogue, Israel, and how Jewish
history and heritage relate to Girl Scouting.
Sometimes the girls have to write essays about the shema -- "Hear, O
Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one" -- or discuss the Exodus,
said Etta Korenman, a local representative for Jewish Girl Scouts.
Korenman said girls who understand their faith have an advantage over
those who simply memorize prayers.
"One of the things that makes people run away from religion is ignorance,"
she said. "What this teaches them is that they can succeed at whatever
they want to and still be true to their faith."
When she had her own troop, Korenman said, she often took religiously
mixed groups camping. She said the hardest part was not being able to
make a campfire Saturday.
"The Christian girls would do their thing, we'd do our thing," she said.
"For Shabbat morning, we would have some doughnuts and a hot water pot
like an urn, so girls could make hot chocolate or tea."
Traditionally observant Jews can't light a fire on Saturdays because it
is considered work, and work is not allowed on the Sabbath.
Twelve-year-old Andrea Mason attends Congregation Beth Torah with Hilary
and also completed the Bat Or program. She's taking a year off from Girl
Scouts to participate in other activities but said she's considering
She said it's important to learn about and practice the traditions of
"You can't have a religion and not know about it," Andrea said. "If you
don't know about it, there's not really a point of being part of that
One goal that's reflected in most of the programs is that the girls
evaluate how religion plays out in their own lives.
"I learned a lot about how much I incorporate God into my life," said
Megan Parker, a 16-year-old junior at Frisco High School. She completed
four of the United Methodist programs.
Her 12-year-old sister, Kyrie Ann, has earned three awards. Kyrie Ann
said her faith in God helps her when times get tough.
"There's lots of things happening in the world right now, and that's one
thing that helps me get through life," she said. Kyrie Ann attends Clark
Middle School in Frisco, Texas.
Mary Parker, Megan and Kyrie Ann's mom and a longtime Scout, said she
encouraged the girls to complete the projects so they'd see how Scouting
affects all areas of life.
"It gives them a better perspective of Girl Scouts -- that Girl Scouting
is not just a civic organization, it's an all-encompassing organization,"
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