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Religious Imposition

    Religious Imposition
    Several years ago my daughter wanted to join the girl scouts so I did some looking around in our area. There was a local group of scouts and they met at the local Library which was a convenient walk from our house. My daughter was very excited for her first meet with the girls but came home rather despondent. When I asked her what was up she told me they prayed too much and she didn't want to go back. It could be my fault for not raising her to be heavily into prayer but this isn't about the assignment of blame, this is about imposing religion in groups that aren't religious. At the time we wrote it off, we were fairly new to the area and just figured that is what rural Pennsylvania is like. My daughter sent a thank you card to the girl scouts but said she wasn't interested. Instead, she found a non-religious activity in town and is now an advanced green belt in Tang Soo Do.



    When I was a little girl I was in the Scouts, I didn't make it very far either but that was because I moved into an area without scouts. I understand how it's different depending on geography but I don't remember any religious agenda whatsoever when I was in. I do remember learning about teamwork and doing projects that required the whole group. There was a pledge that we said in an official capacity only but we weren't made to recite it every time we met. Come to think of it, they did make it about God, the pledge began with, "On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country...etc." I must have been trained to say those words from time to time but not enough to remember it or look back and realize there was an agenda. That was also a different time, I'm not certain if the years have made people more progressive about pushing religious agenda or more open to different ideologies. Again, geography as well as a number of other variables would have to be taken into account.

    I'm not certain if I should start with a, "Back then..." or an, "In the area where I lived..." when I mention the way the girl scouts was when I was in a troop, I suppose both could be a factor. I remember  we had different troop leaders for learning different things. We learned about edible plants, we learned about making fires and wilderness survival, we learned about tribal living and tribal symbols of Native Americans. Due to the "girl" in Girl Scouts we also learned how to crochet and sew as well as how to cook, outdoors and indoors. I can't speak to what girl scouts are learning these days but from what I have seen, there is a religious agenda as a majority of the people involved are religious and practice the same religion, Christianity. Even if they practice different kinds of Christianity, they still have a unified agenda to push.

    The same could be said for the 4-H Club and since they are linked with the government which allegedly restricts them from having a religious agenda, it just feels wrong. I don't think it's intended, I think it's like what happened with the scouts, there are just a lot of religious fundamentalists involved. It is a shame however, when a whole lot of youths that could have benefited from these programs miss out because they are uncomfortable with the agenda and their parents are unsatisfied with the cavalier attitude the group leaders have about not separating church and state. Since the 4-H does have a link with the government and aren't supposed to push religion you won't find the word "God" in their pledge. Their pledge is pretty awesome actually, it explains what the four H's represent:

    I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
    my heart to greater loyalty,
    my hands to larger service, and
    my health to better living,
    for my club, my community, my country and my world.
    (That last bit about the world wasn't added until the 70's)

    Now that is a pledge I can get behind! I like that very much. I like their use of green and white in their emblem as well. They explain the color use thus; green as nature's most common color, representing  youth, life and growth and white to symbolize purity and high ideals. With a motto of, "To make the best better" and a slogan of, "Learn by Doing" what's not to get behind? Maybe the singing of Christian prayers before meals? Maybe 4-H camping trips that may as well be extended Awana field trips? Perhaps the pressure some older members have felt to take the white purity representation in the emblem a step further and make a pledge of purity, a pledge to God. To be clear, I have nothing against Awana, they are exactly what they are meant to be, agenda pushers, they don't deny that and folks putting their kids into it know precisely what they are going to get. I admire their faith.

    At this point my kiddo is too old for any of these groups but she missed out on all of them. She did attend one camping excursion when she was around eight years old. I worked at the Edgar Cayce foundation, also known as the A.R.E. or Association for Research and Enlightenment, their summer camp was a little different and as an employee my daughter got to attend for a discounted rate. While religion was never pushed, it was discussed, but not just one religion, all of them. Other topics discussed included but were not limited to ideas about death and the afterlife, what dreams mean, conservation of the environment and meditation as well as its function and effectiveness. I suppose if those sorts of groups for kids were more prevalent the same might happen. It might end up where they push an agenda too, I suppose it could just be unavoidable. My input then is simple, make sure you know what sort of groups are out there and what their agendas are before exposing children to them.

    Sure there are all types out there, some folks might write angry letters or organize a protest. Another person might be totally indifferent and still more might agree with the agenda and so don't bother to address the issue. Personally, I have nothing against Christians or any other organized group, they have rights. Then again, don't people have the right to NOT have an agenda shoved at them? We are talking about groups that are meant to be inclusive not exclusive. It's a shame that my daughter had to miss out on the girl scouts, it's a bummer that so many kids don't feel comfortable in 4-H and either quit or don't join at all. There is much to learn in these groups that has nothing to do with religion and too many kids miss out. To be honest, I don't have a solution, but in a world increasingly divided it seems overall detrimental to our youth if they are growing up learning all those great things but with the main overall message of discrimination.

    Ultimately, kids brought up in programs that support an "us and them" mentality go out into the real world with that same attitude and perpetuate a state of disconnection. I certainly don't blame clubs exclusively for this but it sure doesn't help when so many allegedly non-religious youth groups out there are pushing religion. In this age of information it seems that there are plenty of ways to get children involved in great religious programs so I appeal to parents to investigate before signing up your kids, make sure you are on board with what is really going on. I also encourage the folks who run these programs not to hi-jack non-religious groups and force a religious agenda onto them. Most of all, make informed decisions, at least that is still allowed. Parents, your kids might be in programs where they are not allowed to think for themselves, but hopefully you can. Even if you agree with the religious agenda being pushed ask yourself if you think it's right that it's being pushed. If you immediately conclude that you support the agenda pushing since you agree with the agenda be aware, you are limiting the experiences not only of your children but of other children as well and really, who are these programs meant for, you or them?