WASHINGTON, D.C., February 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Julie Goodwin of American Heritage Girls and Richard Matthews of Trail Life USA spoke with LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen at this year's D.C. March for Life about the explosive growth of their youth organizations, which are becoming the leading Christian replacements for Girl and Boy Scouts of America.
Julie Goodwin spoke about the phenomenal growth of American Heritage Girls since its foundation in 1995 by a group of parents in West Chester, Ohio, who wanted a wholesome program for their daughters. These parents were disillusioned with the increasing secular focus of existing organizations for girls. They wanted a Judeo-Christian-focused organization for their daughters.
AHG started out with about 10 troops and roughly 100 members. Goodwin said the group for girls aged 5 to 18 has seen its membership increase by 30 to 40 percent every year, now standing at 900 troops with 32,000 members around the globe, including in all 50 states and in 14 countries.
Very appropriately for the D.C. March for Life venue, Goodwin described the new “Respect Life” merit badge available for American Heritage Girls to earn by doing pro-life service projects, such as planting flowers at pregnancy centers or sewing baby clothing to be given to moms with newborns.
“Our troop made ‘onesies’ for pregnancy crisis centers that give baby hats, baby booties and onesies so that the mother can leave with something tangible in her hands. It's so powerful to have that when they leave that pregnancy crisis center to know that they really have a life inside of them,” Goodwin said.
The projects that earn the “Respect Life” merit badge extend beyond participating in pro-life activities such as a March for Life rally or helping collect diapers for a pregnancy care center. American Heritage Girls members can also earn the patch by helping the elderly and disabled by, for example, volunteering at a hospice.
Richard Matthews told LifeSiteNews that Trail Life USA is something of a little brother to American Heritage Girls, having been in existence for only one year. “But we've seen huge growth,” Matthews said, “not only from people that used to be in the Boy Scouts of America, but also people that were never involved in scouting.”
“We are an unapologetically Christian, outdoor youth adventure, character building program for boys, boys all the way from kindergarten through 12th grade,” Matthews said, adding that a new co-ed program for 18 to 25 year olds is soon to be launched which is “again absolutely unapologetically Christian, pro-life, pro real marriage – traditional marriage.”
Matthews explained that next year Trail Life USA hopes to have “Trailmen,” as troop members are called, marching in the D.C. March for Life in uniform with banners “showing the world that, yes, this generation is going to end abortion.”
Trail Life USA started January 1, 2014 and has, in just one year, grown to 356 troops and almost 20,000 members.
Both American Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA see their role as filling the void left by the Girl and Boy Scouts of America organizations' capitulation to left-leaning ideology.
At the core of concern about the Girl Scouts of America is the GSUSA’s growing partnership with abortion industry leader Planned Parenthood.
Judie Brown, president of American Life League, said that Planned Parenthood is conducting a “Girl Scout Project” that promotes a contraceptive mentality—sex without conscience or consequence—to girls belonging to GSUSA.
“The Girl Scouts were once a trusted organization dedicated to character building in young girls and women. Now, GSUSA is abusing that trust,” said Brown. “Most parents and grandparents remain painfully unaware that GSUSA has introduced so-called ‘family planning’ ideology in its curriculum and promotes groups like Planned Parenthood to our daughters and granddaughters.”
American Heritage Girls, conversely, states its mission is to be “building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.”
On May 23, 2013, the Boy Scouts of America's national governing body caved in to homosexual activism and voted to lift its long-standing ban on openly homosexual youth in the program. Effective January 1, 2014, BSA declared, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
The ban on openly homosexual Boy Scout leaders remains in place, although this was recently challenged when the California Supreme Court issued a ruling in January that no state judge may belong to the Boy Scouts of America, stating that the BSA's long-held ban on openly homosexual adult scout leaders is discriminatory.
In its statement of Core Values, Trail Life USA says that Christian adult male leadership is crucial for its program “focused on turning boys into godly men.”
“Our firm conviction is that this can only be done by allowing a boy the opportunity to interact, work with, and be mentored by and with other Christian men,” the group states.