According to information shared by WAGGGS with GSUSA, WAGGGS has acknowledged that, through particular member organizations, delegates, or WAGGGS’ own communications, it promotes and advocates for the education of girls and young women in the area of so-called “sexual and reproductive health/rights.” WAGGGS has indicated that its general emphasis is to advocate for the well-being of the world’s most marginalized girls and to promote education on a variety of matters. WAGGGS has also indicated that it does not have a position on abortion.
WAGGGS’ website includes various references to topics related to “sexual and reproductive health/rights,” some in specific reference to positions taken by member organizations or WAGGGS delegates. Similarly to GSUSA, WAGGGS has indicated it has a particular and limited authority over member organizations and the personal positions of delegates.
While the LMFLY Committee affirmed the vital importance and value of proper education and formation in love, chastity, and human sexuality for all young people, including those who are poor or marginalized, the Committee recognized to be morally objectionable any type of promotion, advocacy, or education on “sexual and reproductive health/rights” as this phrase is commonly understood, especially since the phrase often includes abortion. For example, while WAGGGS has indicated that it does not have a position on abortion, the very use of the term “sexual and reproductive health/rights” often includes problematic positions and agendas at odds with the respect for the gift of human life and the dignity of human sexuality (e.g., positions that do not support abstinence-only education and that advocate for contraception/sterilization as well as abortion). WAGGGS’ delegates from member organizations have taken problematic positions on other issues as well—positions that WAGGGS has not explicitly distanced itself from. These concerns have been communicated to GSUSA.
(8) What is the relationship between GSUSA and WAGGGS?
GSUSA is an active and supportive member of WAGGGS which GSUSA describes as a convener of the global sisterhood of Girl Guides/Girl Scouts. According to GSUSA, WAGGGS creates opportunities for girls to come together and learn about their peers around the world and the value of global citizenship. Further, GSUSA indicates that girls also access global leadership and service opportunities through WAGGGS.
With regard to concerns that have been raised over the last few years, GSUSA has worked with WAGGGS to review particular materials, programming, and events that would involve Girl Scouts, and GSUSA has also indicated that it only participates in select WAGGGS programming. GSUSA has noted, however, that it does not have the ability or purview to criticize, explicitly distance itself from, or change particular advocacy positions within WAGGGS.
Each year, GSUSA contributes over one million unrestricted dollars in membership dues to WAGGGS. The amount is based on the number of members in GSUSA and comes from investment income. GSUSA does not use its own membership dues or other contributions to pay for WAGGGS dues. It has also noted that revenue from cookie sales remains within councils and troops. In response to questions raised about the fact that WAGGGS dues are unrestricted, GSUSA has responded that it cannot change its yearly WAGGGS membership dues into restricted monies or receive a financial report from WAGGGS indicating where such monies have been applied. WAGGGS has indicated to GSUSA that less than 3% of its budget is allocated towards advocacy efforts which cover a number of topics, including basic education and health care.
The LMFLY Committee recognized that both GSUSA and WAGGGS have been responsive to particular concerns. However, GSUSA’s limited purview to address particular positions within WAGGGS that are objectionable based on Catholic teaching and the natural moral law (e.g., “sexual and reproductive health/rights”) is a concern. In addition, with regard to the unrestricted membership dues, any monetary amount applied to advocacy or educational efforts deemed problematic is still a concern.
In sum, GSUSA’s relationship with WAGGGS over the years is understandable given the history and purpose of the organizations; however, the current relationship remains a concern due to WAGGGS’ problematic promotion of “sexual and reproductive health/rights” and other matters.