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By Nancy Flory, an Associate Editor, The Stream, May 15, 2018
For 12 years Patti Garibay was a Girl Scout leader for all three of her daughters’ troops. She was also a troop organizer and a delegate. She was very involved and loved the Girl Scouts. But when she noticed changes that did not align with biblical teaching, she started her own organization for girls. Now American Heritage Girls (AHG) has 52,000 members and 1200 troops.
Moral Relativism and the Beginning of AHG
In the early 90s, Garibay came to a moral dilemma. The Girl Scouts changed their oath. The oath was to God, but the scouts pulled it. Now you can make an oath to whatever god you desire — or to no God at all. As a very involved mom, Garibay questioned why the Scouts would do that. “There’s more to it than just tolerance and diversity,” said Garibay in an interview with The Stream. “I started to look at the curriculum and said, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s just filled with moral relativism.’ There’s no right or wrong written in the Brownie handbook.” Then she began seeing the homosexual agenda. It was “very prolific in the Girl Scouts in that more of our administrators and paid staffers were from that bent.”
Although Garibay tried to raise the alarm within the Girl Scouts, “it was way too late.” So she decided to start a Christ-centered organization for girls.
The plan started at her kitchen table with other moms and dads. The hope was just to get her third daughter through the adolescent years. “It was never going to be anything like it is today, in my mind, but God had a bigger plan.” Garibay looks back over the 23 years since and is astonished to see how God used the AHG “not just to keep the promises that he has, and that he had for us, but also to maintain truth — a moral barometer — based around biblical principles.”
To me, character development has to be, for Christians, Christ-centered,” said Garibay. “Any other way will potentially be contradictory to your values, because if you’re going after social norms, it will definitely be contrary.”
Using AHG’s scouting methods made a girl’s faith concrete. It gave her faith “legs.” AHG “was founded because I believed scouting needed to be based on a moral foundation. And when you don’t do that, I don’t know how you can develop character.”
There are several ways that AHG is different from Girl Scouts. The biggest difference between AHG and the Girl Scouts is that AHG is Christ-centered. “The girls really learn about who they are and whose they are. A girl’s identity comes from the fact that she’s made in the image of God and that she is enough. We can always strive to be better and more like Jesus, but he created us uniquely and perfectly. And boy, what a message for today’s girls.”
“To me, character development has to be, for Christians, Christ-centered,” said Garibay. “Any other way will potentially be contradictory to your values, because if you’re going after social norms, it will definitely be contrary.”
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AHG was created for girls by women who know the struggles of girlhood. Although AHG promotes leadership and understanding girls’ roles in leadership, their focus is not on girl power. “The Holy Spirit’s power in the girl is our mantra.”
AHG is also different from the Girl Scouts in that it’s chartered with churches and private schools. The girls are also held to a higher standard for behavior. Finally, the AHG is decidedly pro-life. “[T]hat to me is not a political issue, that’s a moral issue, one that does affect girls.”
The program allows girls to discover God’s will for their lives. They do that through learning life skills culminating in a badge. Garibay is proud of AHG’s strong community service program. That’s where the girls find out what they really care about. “So there’s just a variety of different passions that the girls find that they have. When they see that their skills are matched, it’s an amazing thing.”
A Success Story
One success story involves a fourth-grade girl named Esther. Esther fell in love with aviation. Since she lived in Colorado Springs, she was able to visit the Air Force Academy. During her time there, she met some elderly men who allowed her to listen in on their conversations about their experiences. She earned an aviation badge from AHG. Garibay explained:
When it came time for her to earn her highest award, which is the Stars and Stripes in AHG, she decided to do a project for the national archives, a living history project which was trying to get all the WWII vets’ testimonies into an audio recording. And so she recorded these gents and she learned so much. It was a phenomenal project, one of the best I’ve seen. But she didn’t just stop there. She also decided that the Lord was calling her to do mission work. And so today, Esther is a missionary aviator in Uganda. And that all started with earning an aviation badge.
Garibay doesn’t equate numbers with success. For her, success means “To do exactly what God has called us to do [and] to go through the doors that he’s opened. … anything short of that is not success.”
For parents who are thinking about putting their daughters in Girl Scouts, Garibay said they should scrutinize every activity that they choose for their daughters. “As Christians, we are called to life a life like Christ and it’s important that we choose activities that are aligned, not [in] contradiction to His Word. … I believe God honors organizations that honor Him.”
If parents are called to start a troop with AHG, God will equip them. “The Lord does not call the equipped,” Garibay noted. “He equips the called. … Whenever I go out speaking I want to affirm women to let them know that [they] can, if He calls [them], [they] can because of Him. I hope that … all the glory goes to God for what we’re doing here, and that He wants more workers in the field because the harvest is ripe.”
Nancy is an Associate Editor at The Stream. She is currently working toward her PhD in Strategic Communication and Journalism at Regent University. She’s the mother of four boys.