UK-Based Scout Association Will Soon Allow Atheists to Join

Just a week after Girlguiding UK announced a revision to their Promise, allowing openly non-religious girls to join without a problem, another organization is following in their footsteps.

The UK-based Scout Association looks like they’re reversing course as well… kind of:

following a consultation of 15,000 people, the movement now plans to allow atheists to become full members, offering them a promise with a form of words that does not include a reference to God. The original promise will remain, for believers.

The new wording will be devised by the trustees of the Scout Association and approved by the worldwide movement before being announced in the autumn, at the earliest.

Simon Carter, from the Scout Association, said there was some way to go before the wording is finalised, “but the direction of travel is clear”.

To be clear, unlike Girlguiding UK, the Scout Association is not rewording their Promise. It will still officially say: “To do my duty to God and to the Queen.” There will just be an acceptable alternative for those who do not believe in God.

When word leaked out that the change might be forthcoming, the group made clear (without referring to atheists) that the wording would remain constant:

Wayne Bulpitt, the UK Chief Commissioner, has reconfirmed today that:

‘We have absolutely no plans to make changes to our Scout Promise. Scouting has been offering development opportunities to young people from across the United Kingdom for over 100 years within the framework of our Promise and Law.’

So it’s not ideal; the group will remain religious in nature, but they’re offering a way for atheists to join.

Still, it’s more than the Boy Scouts of America is doing. The BSA refuses to let any open atheist into the organization for reasons that are beyond my comprehension.

You may recall that, last October, 11-year-old atheist George Pratt was denied admittance into the Scouts for not saying the Promise:

George Pratt

Soon, he’ll be able to join.

(Thanks to Brian for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • WallofSleep

    Sorry to go OT right off the bat, but I just noticed this:

    Florida college reinstates professor who issued ‘Stomp Jesus’ lesson
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/06/24/florida-college-reinstates-professor-who-issued-stomp-jesus-lesson/

  • Geoff Boulton

    Assuming the rates for under 18s is similar to the 18-23 figures posted here earlier, with only 25% stating they believe in God, I don’t see how they had much choice. Jesus must be rolling in his grave (yup, still dead) over all the atheist Scouts using his dad’s name in vain.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The BSA refuses to let any open atheist into the organization for reasons that are beyond my comprehension.

    You don’t comprehend “because they can”? For the love of Jesus.

    • WallofSleep

      “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MONTRESOR!”

      “Yes,” I said, “for the love of God!”

  • MD

    Brilliant!

  • Erp

    The Scouting Association is following a path they’ve used before for alternative promises for Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. The UK Guides have had alternative promises for Buddhists and Muslims but decided that a new promise that all (or almost all) could say would be better than multiple versions of the previous promise. (The BSA does not allow any alternative promise).

  • Anna

    So it’s not ideal; the group will remain religious in nature, but they’re offering a way for atheists to join.

    I don’t even care that much as long as there’s an alternative. While it would be nice if “God” wasn’t mentioned at all, the group itself doesn’t aim to teach children religion (it explicitly says that should be left to parents and churches), so there really isn’t a conflict between being an atheist and being a Scout. This new Promise reflects that. Now if only the BSA would get on board.

  • MD

    “So it’s not ideal; the group will remain religious in nature, but they’re offering a way for atheists to join.”

    Oh, I’ve been doing Scouts with the UK’s Association for close to 5 years, though I didn’t consider myself to be an atheist when I joined. They are not religious in nature at all. There is a nebulous “spiritual” aspect that is part of the whole, but how much emphasis is given to that depends on each group. I started with a very multi-ethnic group and we approached religion, if at all, as a cultural thing. We go to Remembrance Day services to show respect to those who died in uniform, etc.

    Scouts primarily offers “adventure” and hopes to teach kids self-respect, respect for others, and respect for our world.