11-Year-Old Banned from Scouting After Not Pledging Allegiance to God

It turns out Boy Scouts aren’t much better in the UK, either. In another completely ridiculous and not-at-all-shocking twist, The Scout Association has denied an 11-year-old boy from being admitted into their exclusive, Godly club.

George Pratt

George Pratt refused to recognize God — or any diety — when reciting The Scout Promise, so they didn’t allow him to be a part of their group:

The 11-year-old says the snub is ‘very unfair’ and he is missing out on adventures because of his views.

But he defiantly added: ‘I’m not going to change my decision.’

George, of Radstock, Somerset, joined the 1st Midsomer Norton Scouts in January and was looking forward to going on a caving expedition before his ban was imposed by scoutmasters.

Simon Carter, a spokesman for the Christian movement, said: ‘All young people are required to make the Scout Promise to become a Scout.’

Even though the Boy Scouts have adapted their Promise for other religious followers (like changing “God” to “Allah” for Muslim Scouts), they wouldn’t make the adjustment for George.

About sarahh

I'm a 16 year old high school sophomore, raised in an atheist family, and now living in a predominately Christian rural area.

  • C Peterson

    Well, the Scouts in Britain and the U.S. both descend from the original concept as created by Baden-Powell, a screwed up individual if ever there was one. His wacky personal philosophy continues to contaminate the Boy Scouts (quite in contrast with the Girl Scouts).

    On the whole, I’d say that young George Pratt is the winner here. He’s a free thinker and not afraid to stand up for his beliefs. In short, exactly opposite of the spirit of the Boy Scouts. He’s better off without them (although the Scouts could use a lot more like him!) And this is a character building experience for him, as well.

    BTW, what exactly is a “diety”? :)

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

      A god that is trying to lose weight. ;)

    • Tim

      “BTW, what exactly is a “diety”? :)

      a skinny god.

      More “Jesus on a stick” than Buddah.

    • Adam Steele

      What’s your problem with Baden-Powell?  His was a bit extreme in his hate for communism, but other than that, I’ve never heard anything bad about him.  And besides, he’s the one who came up with the Outlanders Promise. 

      On my honor I promise to do my best: 
      To render service to my country; 
      To help other people at all times; 
      To obey the Scout Law.

      • C Peterson

        A bit extreme? As in swinging clear over to Fascism, and sympathy with the Nazis? As in a repressed homosexual who overcompensated in so many ways? I see his extreme and outdated philosophy written all over the Boy Scouts to this day, much to their detriment.

        • Adam Steele

          His sympathy with the Nazis was during the time period when many people of Europe had the same sympathies.  Once Hitler started talking about extermination of the Jews, he jumped off that pretty quick.  

          Repressed homosexual?  You mean like every other homosexual at the time?  How did he overcompensate? By having a wife and kids?  By hiding a possible gay relationship?  By encouraging his wife’s friend to start the original girl scouts because he knew he would never be able to have a coed club back then?  

          His outdated philosophy is outdated because it was created so may years ago, and has changed a lot since then.  Please, give some examples.  Your demonizing without supporting facts seems incredulous.  

    • Andrew B.

       But you have to admit, he was still a great guitarist.

  • Beau Quilter

    If I were George’s father, I would launch my own caving expedition and invite all of George’s friends. No prayer required.

    • Erp

      A major problem is insurance.   Very difficult to get for caving with children not your own.   Apparently the organized caving groups in Britain won’t accept children on their trips even with their parents along because of this.  Caving can be quite dangerous so I would want a high ratio of adults to children and adults in the UK working with children not their own have to be vetted (e.g., criminal background check, etc.).  The paperwork involved can be extreme but the Scouting Association already has both the insurance and the paperwork for its volunteers.  BTW in the UK it is the Scouting Association not Boy Scouts since both boys and girls can join at all levels.   

      BTW one of the optional allowed changes to the promise is to  ‘my dharma’ which does allow Hindu or Buddhist atheists (but not other types of atheists).

      • Tim

        ” Apparently the organized caving groups in Britain won’t accept children on their trips even with their parents along because of this.”

        Cerberus caving club in Mendip which is very close to George allow under 18s to join.  I don’t imagine they are the only one.

        Caving clubs don’t usually lead trips.  people meet up and go caving.

        The main problem George will face will be his inability to stand his round or grow a beard.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      I’m sure caving is not his only desired interest in joining the Boy Scouts.  They do so many other things and go on many other adventures that are probably appealing to him.  It just happens that they were planning a caving expedition when he was kicked.

      Regardless, this sucks.

  • Gus Snarp

    I don’t know what the Promise is in the UK, but in the U.S. it goes like this:

    On my honor, I promise to do my duty to God and my country, to obey the Scout Law, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

    I propose the first part be changed to:

    I promise to do my duty to humankind, to obey the Scout Law….

    The last bit is OK if you see it from a historical point of view where “straight” has nothing to do with sexuality, but that could be dropped too. I prefer “duty to my fellow man” poetically speaking, but there are very good reasons for not using such problematic language.

    Until that happens (unlikely), no Scout Oath, and therefore no Scouting, for me.

    • Tim

      The UK Promise is..

      On my honour, I promise that I will do my best To do my duty to God [can be replaced with "Allah" etc] and to the Queen, To help other people And to keep the Scout Law

      I took this promise as a child.  I wouldn’t take it today as an atheist and a republican (not a Republican in Mitt Romney sense, just one who thinks that when the Queen dies it would be an appropriate time to elect a president rather than replace her with her dim-witted useless son) 

      • Michael

        Couldn’t we just replace it with the Bill and Ted pledge?

        “I promise to be excellent to people.”

        • smittypap

           Rufus would be so proud.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

    Approximately 45 years agoin the UK  (at the age of 9) I was “invited” to leave the Cub Scouts for refusing to take part in the communal prayer at the end of meetings. It was then that I discovered the concept of atheism.

  • raven1star

    The Boy Scouts has reaffirmed time and again that they are a religious group with a particular Christian outlook. It’s not a ridiculous twist-just unfortunate. We have to make sure that there are alternative groups out there that have the same basic mission as the Boy Scouts, but welcomes ALL boys, regardless of beliefs or lack thereof. If we can’t change the Scouts, let’s make them obsolete. 

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      How about ALL CHILDREN? I was one of those girls that hated that my GS troop only did crafts and home ec. junk. We never did woodsy or useful stuff. I quit out of boredom and lack of dirt. I’d have loved all the stuff the boys did.

      • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

         That’d be even better!

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

        That may have just been your troup… mine had regular camping trips.  In fact, we did that more than just your average arts and crafts.  We were out in the green more often than just in a building, be it exploring wetlands, bug-hunting, or climbing trees.

        • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

          I probably would have loved your troop. Thanks to mine, well, I can do amazing things with glue and macaroni. They were basically teaching us how to entertain small children and cook. Any surprise that our “leader” was a batshit catholic housewife? My dad (former Eagle Scout) taught me all the stuff I wanted to learn, but not all kids are that lucky.

  • Atoswald

    I signed a petition for Spenser Garber of Pace, FL for a very similar reason. After 11 years in Boy Scouts, his membership was revoked due to his atheism. Not a big surprise coming from Northwest Florida, but still sad.


  • Guest

    Good for him! This strikes me somewhat oddly as I have often wished there were a secular version of the Boy Scouts. I never took part in the scouts (looking back I’m not sure if it was the religious aspect of it or not), so I don’t personally  have any of the skills to actually teach the kids anything about outdoorsmanship. It seems to me that a lot of people want their kids to learn the skills taught in the scouts, but don’t want the religious angle forced on them. With no piety to hide behind, it would probably also be less likely to attract pedophiles.

  • Tim

    I am from Bath so it is good to see a local story make this site.  I also used to be a caver (until my knees let me down) and know that there are loads of non-denominational caving clubs in the area George could join (just make sure you wear knee-pads George!)

    There has been quite a bit of discussion around these parts about this case and I was surprised and dispointed with the number of not-especially religious people who say “the Scouts are a private club, they can set their own rules and therefore George should shut up”

    The first part of their argument may be true.  The Scouts are free to behave like wankers, but if they are free to do that then everyone else is free to call them out as wankers.  It isn’t that England is a religious country it is just  that we don’t like the idea of someone rocking the boat.

  • Tim

    The comments on the stroy in the local paper http://www.thisisbath.co.uk/Scouts-exclude-schoolboy-believing-God/story-17109998-detail/story.html

    has the majority of local people on George’s side

  • http://cryofly.myopenid.com/ anuran

    The boy scout promise is ‘duty to god and country’. So I would not complain if scouting organization asks kids to see and praise the ‘nothing’. My opinion of scouting is that it is a catholic camp. (all lower cases are intentional).

    • Adam Steele

      Mormon camp in this country. 

  • Mark O’Leary

    Reminds me of my own scouting days. The version of this taught by the Boy Scouts of America, known as the Scout Oath, says:

    On my honor, I will do my best
    to do my duty to God and my country,
    to obey the scout law,
    to help other people at all times,
    and to keep myself physically strong,
    mentally awake, 
    and morally straight.

  • Adam Steele

    While the original promise has always had god in it.  There used to be an Outlanders Promise, used by those who had no god, or couldn’t pledge to god, like Quakers.  

    On my honor I promise to do my best: 
    To render service to my country; 
    To help other people at all times; 
    To obey the Scout Law.

    Original Law didn’t mention Reverent either.  

    Like so many other things, the Scouts have been twisted in this country by religious influence, in this case specifically Mormons, since the 50s.  This is probably what is happening in the UK also.  

  • Paul Iannacone

    I was pretty happy that my son never wanted to join scouts.  Until this year.  He’s now 9 and wanted to join, so I took him to one local meeting, where he did an activity, learned the pledge, etc.  But that pack didn’t have any kids his age, so they referred us to another pack.  They have yet to return my emails, but luckily, my son forgot all about scouts.  He hasn’t asked, so I’m not reminding him.  We can do plenty of camping, hiking, caving, shooting, etc, without those god-fearing  homophobes.

    George (and my son) are better off.  Even though for a young boy, scouts can be fun and rewarding, the hate-filled lessons they ultimately learn do more harm (IMO).

    • Golfie98

      Paul, I can understand what you are saying and I also fully support George (and think the Scouts should allow for god and no god options in the pledge) but the one thing I would pull you up on is calling them homophobes. Whilst I am sure that the Scouting movement has it’s share of them the movement itself does not exclude gay people,, in fact they encourage openness and fellowship and developed policies and guidence to combat homophobia and bullying.

      see http://scouts.org.uk/fellowship/html/flags.html . This group are fully within and supported by the scouting movement in the UK.

      I just do not understand their stance on religious belief though it seems so out of place with many of their other stances.

      • http://www.facebook.com/abb3w Arthur Byrne

         US scouting is less tolerant than the UK on this issue.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

        Yes, and if you’re open with them, they will kick you.  Another boy, Ryan Andresen, was also just kicked after 11 years openly told them he was gay over a year ago and his local troup was fine with it.  Someone obviously shared it with the uppers who said he must be kicked.  They also added that he had openly said he didn’t like the God part of the pledge but said it anyway.  The Boy Scouts council said he was kicked out for those 2 reasons combined… a few weeks before his 18th birthday.  He had finished is Eagle Scout project (a Wall of Tolerance at a local middle school) which has to be turned in before a boy turns 18.  Even if they fought it, it would never be resolved before his birthday.

        TL;DR:  Boy open and honest kicked anyway by BS council… honesty is punished anyway.

        • Golfie98

          What you are saying relates to Boy Scouts in America. This report (and the link I provided) are for the Scouting movement in the UK. AFAIK they are completely separate organisations. I am fully aware, through articles here and elsewhere, of the unjustifiable anti-gay policies of the Boy Scouts of America.

          All I was saying was that in the UK being openly gay would not be a reason to be excluded, in fact they have support mechanisms in place for gay people, so to label the organisation as homophobic was incorrect.

          That still does not justify their clinging onto this god stuff and the fact that they don’t seem to care which god, and in fact no god is OK if you say you are part of a religion with no deity, makes the position even more ludicrous. They are making fools of themselves and excluding people for reasons even they cannot seriously think are valid.

  • The Other Weirdo

    You know, I’ve been thinking about this lately. We atheists are potentially sitting on the biggest and bestest god of them all: the Universe itself. The Universe includes, incidentally, absolutely everything that exists, including space and time,  even those things that are normally thought by benighted fools to lie outside of it. So we are children of the Universe and they worship a puny god that lives inside it. The kid should just claim to do his duty to the Universe. He’d also have the satisfaction of knowing that, when he looks up at the sky at night during camping, he’ll see evidence of his Universe, while the other kids just see imagined shadows.

    There. Problem solved. Now prove me wrong. :)

    Where does the burden of proof lie in situations like this? After all, we’re all children of the Universe, ultimately.

    • Sindigo

      All he’s going to see if he looks at the sky at night while camping near Bath is light pollution reflected off rain clouds. But I see where you’re coming from. ;)

      • Tim

        too right.  has it actually stopped raining here since April.

        As for caving trips – I imagine many of the caves will be full of flood water.

  • John S

    Well, banning someone for not praying might be a bit harsh, but the Scouts are a religiously oriented organization. I think they are within their rights. It’s a shame, but in a free society people and organization often do things within their rights that upset other people.

    • Stev84

      They pay lip service to religion, but they really aren’t all that religious in practice.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      True and by that same token we can tell them that we think they’re doing the wrong thing. If they can’t handle a bit of crit, well, that’s too bad.

      • John S

        Oh yes! By all means! We are just as much within our rights to comment, condemn or even agree.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      They are a private organization that has the right to discriminate as they please.  They can set the parameters of all members and cast out as they see fit.  Absolutely.

      But the rest of us also have the right to tell them they are bigotted and horrible people.

      I won’t sign any petitions asking for the Boy Scouts to accept gays and atheists.  Instead, they should join Campfire… build up that secular organization until it overtakes the BS and GS.  They are secular and co-ed.  My son has attended a Campfire Summer Camp for 6 years now in Oregon and he has enjoyed it totally without any God mentions at all.  Let’s leave the Boy Scouts in the last century and have fun with a new organization.

  • Jim_kordahl

    Good for you Geoge!!!!!!! Don’t let them tell you what to believe in or not believe in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • SpareMePlease

    I understand perfectly why the scouts do what they do.  Their role model, that Jesus guy, he was real big on excluding those that did not believe…

    • Blacksheep

      Absolutely not. 

      “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

      A role model of exclusion does not come from Christ, it comes from Religion.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        @09d62658f16c0a6d19204d47576e3655:disqus is being sarcastic.

        • SpareMePlease

           Kevin_of_Bangor is correct.
          The page script removed my faux /TongueInCheek formatting command.

      • pRinzler

        Does that hold true for every single thing in the Bible that Jesus supposedly said, such as Matthew 25:46?  I would classify eternal punishment as “excluding.”

  • Stonyground

    I was never involved with the scouts or any other kind of youth organisation at all as a kid. Had I been, God wouldn’t have been an issue because, growing up, I was nominally a Christian. My wife was a girl guide and says that there was a pledge with God in it, she would have been nominally Christian too, now she is more of an indifferent.

    As an adult I became involved in karate and martial arts. In all the years that I was involved, I never encountered prejudice of any kind. Everyone was welcome and everyone was treated fairly. Maybe George should join a karate club instead. The feeling of being awarded your black belt after years of sweat and toil takes some beating.

  • Jeremy

    I joined, participated in and enjoyed all of the benefits of scouting without believing in a god. Mostly because i just put up with saying the promise without putting any belief into it.

    The benefit? I got to learn all that scouting has to teach, which is a lot! I agree that it’s an archaic technicality that should be corrected…. but hey, I came out in the end with invaluable life skills that I also passed on to other scouts when I became Scoutmaster.

    My opinion? Do it anyway, learn what you can, teach it to others.
    Ignorant are those who think everybody in the scout movement is religious.

    • TalkingSnake

      Why are you talking like Yoda?

      • Antinomian

        Jedi Badge.

    • Travshad

      Jeremy, it sounds like the life skills you learned were to lie and not honour promises.  Learning the value of honestly and trustworthiness are far more valuable life skills than what you seemed to have learned from the Boy Scouts.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    sorry, but i have to support the scouts on this one. they make it perfectly clear: they are a religious, homophobic, pro-discrimination organization. i hope this kid learns an important lesson, which is that just because some people do things you may want to do along with them sometimes, association matters. by getting involved with certain groups you tacitly and/or directly endorse what they endorse. like it or not. 

  • Trickster Goddess

    When I was a kid, my parents wouldn’t let me join the scouts for religious reasons. Our family’s religion was pacifist and they considered the uniform-wearing scouts to be a paramilitary organization.

    Instead our church had their own organization called Torchbearers which did a lot of the same stuff. (And my friends at school thought ‘Torch Bears’ was a much cooler name that Boy/Girl Scouts.)

  • http://twitter.com/Elbonio Mark Tilbrook

    This kid did the right thing, he’s brave and should be praised for standing up for himself.

    He could of course call their bluff and take the scouts pledge by replacing God with the FSM – if all they require is a belief in a higher power he could make a point by doing that in every religious activity they do.

  • Gwen

    Try pledging to the FSM, then sue them if they don’t accept your ‘deity’.

  • Allmatty

    Made it through scouts by saying “garden my country” or “guard my country”. I managed to stay under the radar. I personally thought greening my country was a better scout ideal.

  • Sirtib

    A kid in my village was a boy scout (UK 1975ish). I went with him to a scout meeting one evening. I had no idea about the religion thing – I didn’t go again simply because the kids and their leaders (there were ‘leaders’!?) all seemed like a bunch of wankers. If I had known religion was involved, I wouldn’t have gone along in the first place!

  • Mark W.

    I was a scout in Canada, and we didn’t have to suffer through this BS for the most part. There were references to God, some troops had preachers that helped out (many meeting were held in community churches), but nobody was penalized for not saying a prayer or not being religious, at least not in my district. My dad is probably one of the least Godly men on the planet, and he was our scout leader.