Huffpost UK uk
Jessica Elgot Headshot

Scouts To Allow Atheists For The First Time In 106 Years (VIDEO)

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Atheists will now be able to join the Scouts for the first time in the association's 106 year history.

The move seems to have, miraculously, satisfied both religious leaders and humanists alike.

Instead of promising to ‘love God’, Beaver Scouts will now have the option to promise to love ‘our world’ and Scouts, Explorer Scouts and adults will have the option to promise to ‘uphold our Scout values’ instead of 'do my duty to God’.

Alternative versions of the Scout Promise have been available for nearly 50 years and have been used by Muslim, Hindus, Buddhists and those that live in the UK but are not UK citizens, but the Scout Association are keen to stress that the core Scout Promise, that refers to ‘Duty of God’, remains intact.

The new Promise, the result of a 10 month consultation, comes into force on 1 January. Any Scout who wants to pledge a duty to God will still be able to do so.

Membership of the Scouts now stands at around 530,000, with 77,00 girls, and special groups set up for Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Sikh communities.

The good-humoured compromise over the Scout promise comes in sharp contrast to the long-running row over the Girl Guide promise, which will now no longer include any religious reference in their promise.

Girl Guide groups who accept the new "secularist" promise should no longer be allowed to use Church premises for free, religious leaders have now said. The row has seen several Brownie and Guide groups go "rogue" - and continue using the word "God" in the promise.

Wayne Bulpitt, UK Chief Commissioner of the Scouts said that the movement was determined to be inclusive: “We are a values-based Movement and exploring faith and beliefs remains a key element of the Scouting Programme. That will not change.”

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association called it a “progressive decision of welcoming non-religious young people and adults of good conscience. Scouting has shown it genuinely wishes to be a Movement open to all.

"Their initiative sends out a strong signal that the vast majority of young people who do not see themselves as belonging to any religion have values that are worthy of respect and should be explicitly welcomed and catered for in any activity that seeks to be genuinely inclusive.

‘The humanist values that are in practice held by many thoughtful and ethical non-religious young people and adults have a transformative effect to contribute to any movement and the wider aim of a cooperative and cohesive shared society. Scouting will only be strengthened by their participation."

The Rt Revd. Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham and the Church of England’s lead Bishop on work with Young People said he was extremely pleased that God stays in the Promise.

“In enabling people of all faiths and none to affirm their beliefs through an additional alternative promise the Scout movement has demonstrated that it is both possible, and I would argue preferable, to affirm the importance of spiritual life and not to restrict meaning to arbitrary self-definition.

"From the thousands of volunteers from churches who work as leaders and enablers through to the hosting of groups in Church premises throughout the country, I am confident that our relationship the scout movement will continue to flourish.”

Revd Michael Heaney, Moderator of the Free Churches Group, added:“I am delighted Scouting will continue to put the exploration of faith and values at the heart of its programme and that it will continue to invite those who wish to, to promise to do their duty to God.”

Bishop Richard Moth, the Roman Catholic Bishop for Scouting, also welcomed the decision to keep God in the established Promise. "The recognition of the place of faith that is vital for so many and affirms the very foundations of Scouting that are dear to every member of the Association.”

Around the Web

Atheist Boy Scouts - Huffington Post

One Scouts ban remains intact: Atheists | Religion News Service

From gay members to atheist scouts: The Boy Scouts America ...

Atheists Launch National Ad Campaign to Urge Boy Scouts to Allow ...