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Catholic Church's disapproval boosts Girl Scout donations in St. Louis

When it comes to Girl Scout fund-raising and cookie sales, critics can bring out customers.

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Girl Scouts sell cookies in the audience at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

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A Catholic leader's comments against the Girl Scouts made some supporters hungry. 

After St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson encouraged Catholics to dissociate from the organization, The Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri broke records at their annual fundraising event, where donors munched on various sweet treats inspired by Girl Scout cookies.

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The event brought in over $350,000, which tops every previous fundraiser the regional group has held, including the one that celebrated the organization's 100th anniversary.

Archbishop Carlson wrote a letter to Catholics in his archdiocese on Feb. 18, advising Catholic families to enroll their daughters in programs other than Girl Scouts and that priests dissolve connections between their parishes and Girl Scout troops.

"Girl Scouts is exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior and it is clear to me that as they move in the ways of the world it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values," Carlson wrote in the letter. "We must stop and ask ourselves — is Girl Scouts concerned with the total well-being of our young women? Does it do a good job forming the spiritual, emotional, and personal well-being of Catholic girls?"

But his letter seems to have generated more support for the Girl Scouts in the region. Not only was their fundraiser immensely successful, but the controversy has generated extra interest in cookie sales for The Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri. 

Leaders of the regional organization told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that more people from out-of-state than usual have asked to buy Girl Scout cookies.

"This morning in fact, we received calls from several local businesses offering to host cookie booths in their lobbies," Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri CEO Bonnie Barczykowski told the Post-Dispatch in an emailed statement Monday. "And, we’ve heard numerous stories of girls running out of particular flavors — as a result, we’ve put in a reorder to ensure Girl Scout Cookies for everyone."

Although Carlson's letter stimulated generous support for the Girl Scouts, it also represents issues over which the organization has been grappling with other critics.

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In his letter, Carlson cited the organization's "position on an inclusion of transgender and homosexual issues" as "problematic." He also denounced Girl Scouts' connections to organizations that advocate for reproductive rights for women.

And Carlson's letter is not the first time there has been friction between Girl Scouts and conservatives on these issues. Last June, Girl Scouts of Western Washington returned a $100,000 donation when the donor said the money could not be used to support transgender girls.

"Girl Scouts is for every girl," Megan Ferland, Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, told Seattle Metropolitan then. "And every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout if she wants to."

The St. Louis fundraiser also isn't the only time cookie sales have increased thanks to transphobic comments by a critic. After a transgender, 9-year-old Girl Scout in Illinois was told "nobody wants to buy cookies from a boy in a dress" by a neighbor in January, she sold over 3,000 boxes of cookies online. Some of those sales came from overseas customers.