Why it’s not OK to congratulate Amy Coney Barrett — especially when you’re the Girl Scouts
By Tammy Tibbetts and Christen Brandt
Days before a national election that will change the trajectory of your life — especially if you’re a girl, woman, person of color, lower-income, or otherwise marginalized citizen — it was appalling to see one of the most respected girls’ organizations in our nation post a congratulatory note to the new Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
On Wednesday, the Girl Scouts posted an image titled “Female Supreme Court Justices” on its Instagram and Twitter feeds, captioned as such: “Congratulations Amy Coney Barrett on becoming the 5th woman appointed to the Supreme Court since its inception in 1789.” Upon receiving an instant backlash, the organization commented, “Girl Scouts of the USA is a nonpolitical, nonpartisan organization. We are neither red nor blue, but Girl Scout GREEN. We are here to lift up girls and women. This is not the place to debate partisan politics.” About two hours and 879 Instagram comments later, the posts were eventually deleted.
As girl activists, as an alumna of the Girl Scouts programs (Tammy was a Daisy and Brownie), and as nonprofit executives, we cannot let the reasons why this is so problematic disappear. Here’s why it’s important we still talk about them:
Let’s get over the myth that nonprofits shouldn’t be political. We need to get the facts straight: Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations — which is what tax-exempt nonprofits are known as — are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.
But nonprofits can discuss the legislative and policy decisions that impact their constituents, and they can even lobby and advocate for changes to advance their cause. You could argue that nonprofits have a moral obligation to fight for policies that reduce inequality in our world, but at the very least, we can agree that they should never stand in support of the policies or people who actively harm the very population they serve.
An organization pledging to serve girls in its mission statement means NOTHING if their actions — on social media or otherwise — actively work against girls’ rights.
Let’s get over the myopia that just because she’s a woman, her appointment is a victory for girls and women. There is no point in celebrating a woman who breaks gender barriers if she does not leverage that power to make the world more equal and just for other girls and women of all backgrounds.
The truth is that Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment poses a threat to the futures of every single Girl Scout in the United States. At 48 years of age, she will serve on the Supreme Court during the reproductive years of current Girl Scouts. Reasons why her appointment should be feared and not celebrated:
- She refused to say whether she would uphold access to safe abortion, birth control, or fertility treatment.
- She has said that requiring health insurance policies to cover contraception violates religious liberty.
- Her writing implies she does not believe the Constitution guarantees women equal protection before the law.
- She was a member of an anti-abortion group and said publicly that she believes life begins at conception. In a 2015 Texas Law Review article, she opposed the idea that courts should always uphold precedent, referring to Roe v. Wade.
Let’s hold girls’ organizations accountable to standing up for girls in every space, even when it’s inconvenient or difficult. How this was approved in a large organization that must require several sign-offs before an Instagram post goes up is astounding to us. This post was clearly voicing the political beliefs of adult leadership, not of the girls they serve. (It pains us to think what else is said within the walls of an institution that believes what Justice Barrett stands for is a win for women).
But here is what gives us hope:
Girl Scout alumni spoke up. Quickly, the girls and women who loved their time with the Girl Scouts called the organization in, and they pointed out the contradiction. Today’s world is ruled by a call-out culture that is often cruel and unforgiving. The Girl Scout alumni quickly pointing out the ramifications of endorsing an appointment such as Barrett? Those are the voices all girls’ organizations would be wise to listen to. Those are the voices calling the Girl Scouts in, asking for them to do better.
Tammy herself took the Girl Scout Promise as a young girl. That law states “I will do my best to be… responsible for what I say and do.”
We ask the Girl Scouts to publicly explain the changes they will make to better represent girls’ interests in all spaces moving forward.
The Girl Scouts was founded in 1912, at a time when women in the United States could not even vote. We still have so far to go until women’s and girls’ rights are fully respected and supported in this country, and it’s more important than ever to stand up for a safer, more equitable world for girls. Is this political? Yes. But it’s also personal, as Black feminists first argued half a century ago.
Ultimately, it’s time to recognize that “staying out of politics” is a privilege. And while it’s true nonprofits are not allowed to endorse political candidates, they certainly don’t have to stay silent about the impending harms awaiting the next generation of women if their rights aren’t supported and enforced in the coming years.
If you aren’t fighting for girls’ future rights, what is the point of supporting girls at all?
Tammy and Christen are the founders of She’s the First and authors who live in Brooklyn.