Scouts unveil new secular pledge
Starting next year, non-religious scouts can recite their Scout Promise without mention to God. But, the Scouting Association will also be holding on to its religious pledge.
Following the decision of Girl Guides to remove God from their pledge earlier this year, the Scout Association in the UK has announced a new godless version of its oath. The new pledge, which is to be an alternative – not a replacement – to the old Promise will state: “On my honour I promise that I will do my best to uphold our scout values,” instead of “On my honour, I promise that I will do my best, to do my duty to God.” This is the first time that the “core” Scout pledge has been changed in the Association’s 106-year history.
UK Chief Commissioner for the Scout Association, Wayne Bulpitt said:
“We look forward to welcoming even more young people and adults to Scouting. Throughout its 106-year history the Movement has continued to evolve and today marks an important step in that journey. It also signifies the determination to become truly inclusive and relevant to all sections of society that it serves.”
The new godless Promise will come to effect on January next year. As an act of even more openness towards non-believers, the Association will also be amending its Equal Opportunities Policy that currently bars atheists from leadership positions, the National Secular Society reports.
However, unlike the Girl Guides, the Scouts will also hold on to their original deity-involving oath. While welcoming the positive reaction of the British Humanist Association to the new pledge, Chief Commissioner Bulpitt stated: “We are a values-based Movement and exploring faith and beliefs remains a key element of the Scouting Programme. That will not change.”
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, also welcomed the secular Promise, but commented:
"At the same time, we think the Girl Guides' response to this issue was infinitely superior. Their approach relieves young people of having to make a decision about what they believe at a time in their lives when maybe they haven't decided."
The Scouting Association, which has over 500,000 members in the UK, currently allows Hindu scouts to refer to "my Dharma" and Muslims to Allah when reciting the Promise. Therefore, the introduction of a non-religious alternative certainly promise a more equal place for non-believers in the world of scouting. Whichever motivations are behind the Scouts’ wish to also keep the old Promise, doing so means that the Association may avoid the controversy that arose from the Girl Guides’ complete removal of God from their pledge. However, one supreme figure remains in both organisations’ oaths: all Girl Guides and Scouts will continue pledging allegiance to the Queen.