Huffpost UK uk

Scouts Could Accept Atheists For The First TIme In Over A Century

Posted: Updated:

Atheists could be welcomed into the Scout movement for the first time in 105 years, the association has said.

The movement, led by TV adventurer Bear Grylls, is launching a consultation to see if members would support an alternative Scout Promise for those who feel unable to pledge a "duty to God".

For more than 40 years, versions of the oath have existed for faith groups including Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, but this is the first time Scouts have considered an adaptation for atheists.

scouts atheists

Atheists could be welcomed into the Scout movement for the first time in 105 years

The proposed changes are designed to increase diversity in the movement and enable more young people and adults to join.
Leaders insist the existing Scout Promise - which also contains a vow of allegiance to the Queen - would continue to be used alongside alternative versions.

Wayne Bulpitt, the association's chief commissioner in the UK, said: "We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and religion will remain a key element of the Scouting programme. That will not change.

"However, throughout our 105-year history, we have continued to evolve so that we remain relevant to communities across the UK.

"We do that by regularly seeking the views of our members and we will use the information gathered by the consultation to help shape the future of scouting for the coming years."

Membership of the Scouts has risen during the past seven years from 444,936 in 2005 to 525,364 this year, figures released by the association show.

Since 2002, the number of girls taking part has increased by 69% while more than 50 scout groups catering for young people drawn mainly from Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities have opened in the last ten years.

The Scout Promise reads: "On my honour, I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and to the Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law."

Alternative versions allow Hindus and Buddhists to use the word "my Dharma" while Muslims can use the word "Allah".

Non UK citizens are permitted to replace the phrase "duty to the Queen" with "duty to the country in which I am now living".

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said the consultation was a "move in the right direction" and would put an end to "unpleasant confrontations" such as that of 11-year-old George Pratt, from Midsomer Norton in Somerset, who was excluded because he did not want to make the Scout Promise in its present form.

"By adjusting their promise to include people without a religious belief, the Scouts will bring themselves in line with the reality of 21st-century Britain, where more than two-thirds of young people say they have no religious belief," he said.

"If the Scouts decide to change the promise, it would relieve many young people of having to lie about what they believe in order to be part of this great organisation."

Quick Poll

Is it time for Scouts to accept atheists?

VOTE

British Humanist Association's Chief Executive Andrew Copson, said: "The Scouts are an enormously significant youth organisation and in some parts of the country offer the only activities young people have. It is divisive, unfair and deeply sad that they continue to exclude young people of good conscience who do not believe in any god and are not willing to lie by saying words they don't believe. According to repeated surveys, 65% and more of teenagers are not religious and they need to be included.

"The special exemptions from equality laws that the Scouts have should be repealed but it would be even better if the Scouts would - in response to a changing society, the needs of young people and simple common sense - voluntarily take this inclusive step themselves. All people who care about inclusion will hope that the process beginning today leads to that change."

Around the Web

Britain's Scouts to consult on atheist membership

New scouting group brings more inclusive philosophy to St. Louis area

LGBT and Allies Want Philadelphia Scouts Evicted

Shipping giant UPS drops Boy Scouts funding over discrimination of LGBT ...