The Promise

Can of worms – check.

Tin opener – check.

Apply opener to can and stand well back……

Ok, I am being a little facetious as this is an important subject. Today the Scout Association has announced that it is considering an alternative oath (promise) so that atheists can become full members. I am inclined to think that they should now be able as this is currently the only belief  (or lack of!) or lifestyle choice (for want of a better phrase) that stops people joining the Scouts (except for the obvious illegal, sick and/or dangerous ones). Now despite what side of the argument you may sit upon, and there is going to be some argument with hissy fits thrown, the main thing is that a unilateral decision has not been made and the Scout Association is asking its members what they think through a survey. And even better, once the survey is closed, the results will be examined by an independent organisation who will then report back to the SA what their members want it to do.

This consultation was announced today and it is appearing all over the media and it seems that we are getting some very positive coverage.

Interestingly all this is not specifically about faith, but about the fundamentals of Scouting, however they do make on point particularly clear –

No matter what the outcome of the consultation, the existing Scout Promise and its alternatives will continue to be used. Scouting remains a values-based Movement and our programme with young people will continue to enable them to explore their faiths, beliefs and attitudes as well as share in spiritual reflection.

Let’s just hope that this will now end the silly press stories along the lines of “little Johnny couldn’t join Scouts because he’s a disciple of the Flying Spaghetti Monster”!

Interestingly the Guides have announced a review of their promise today as well.

8 Replies to “The Promise”

  1. It is an interesting topic to discuss and one that will no doubt as you say cause heated debate from both sides.

    I really am struggling with this, I find myself sitting on the fence and really can decided which site to jump down on to.

    I believe that Scouting is beneficial to all young people and is something that should be promoted but is one of our new fundamentals not Integrity and we should have the integrity not to bow down to pressure from minorities.
    You will find that in most of these “little Jinny can join because ….. ” cases it is not about little Jinny but the parents they are forcing there non belief on to the young people that has to be as bad a forcing a belief.

    I am not what you would call a believer in God, I do however have faith and this allows me as a leader to be able to discuss with YP’s about all aspects of Faith and Beliefs with an open mind. My worry would be that if a someone from the NSS was to come along they would preach there non-belief and not discuss all aspects, it is the same worry I would have about having some evangelical christian as a leader.

    So I find myself sitting on the fence, well I am probably actually hanging down one-side but have not let me feet touch the floor yet. I just hope that the Scout Association do this for the right reasons not just because of pressure or a need for continual improvement in numbers


  2. I agree. The belief thing for the YP is a difficult one. You are right when you say that it is usually the parent’s beliefs or non beliefs that colour the young person’s ideas. I don’t don’t believe a YP of around 10 years can say they are absolutely atheist (I could be wrong). Put it another way, some 10 year olds are SURE that JLS make good music!
    If someone who is a member of the National Secular Society wanted to be a leader, I would expect (demand?) that they would tell the YP about all aspects of faith and non faith as I would a member of the Church who sponsor us. We are Christian, but in the summer we almost visited a Mosque (cockups all over meant we didn’t), but that is the point, we endeavour to show all sides.
    As I said I like the idea that the SA are asking us and saying the main promise won’t change.
    I guess we’ll see.

  3. What I find really remarkable is the contrast of strategies between Scouts UK (enjoying buoyant growth) and the B.S.A. (embattled on several fronts, diminishing membership and general goodwill).
    The simplicity of asking people’s opinions in an open, transparent, process and submitting the answers for evaluation for an unbiased opinion is brilliant.
    The BSA has been fighting loosing battles. Instead of embracing change as a road to continued relevance and growth (as Scouts UK has done) we have squandered these opportunities for reflection and simply refusing the idea that we could evolve AND not only maintain but spread the core values of Scouting.
    When a boy arrives at our doorstep (I wish girls had the equal opportunity to do so in our organization) we don’t ask him to do anything more than agree to understand and live by the Scout oath and law – how he achieves this is a matter of conscience in his own heart. The specifics of his religious or spiritual views are left to his family and the path they choose. All we ask is that he makes a practical application of the things he believes and respects the way others apply their beliefs. Why would we want to complicate such a simple formula for peace and understanding?
    So far as I can tell BP was searching for a set of common human values that could be embraced by anyone, that transcended the division of politics, religion, culture and background. I think that transcendent concept is the whole of his legacy and the genius of Scouting – all other pledges, oaths, laws, policies and procedures ought to be subservient to that simple concept.

  4. Thanks for your comment Clarke.
    I’ve been watching the BSA’s recent issues with interest, but not felt that as a UK Scout I am in a position to comment.
    However, you are correct when you talk about BP’s vision about wanting Scouting to be all inclusive. Indeed his first camp in 1907 started that theme by having young men from both the upper and working classes camping together and not even in their own social circles. This was a radical concept in Edwardian Britain!
    Perhaps the BSA needs to listen to its membership a little more?
    Looking at things another way, it you’d have said to UK Scouts in, say 1966, that there would be girls in Scouting at all levels within 25 years, you’d have been laughed off your campsite!

  5. One can hardly keep from shaking their head at some of the ways things are being handled by the BSA at a national level. The good news is that at the local level things go on. – there’s grumbling but we are all mostly too busy to do much else than grumble.
    What I think is a grave concern is that the general opinion of Scouting has taken some real hits. The response from above has been self-defeating. I’d pay Derek Twine’s airfare to come over and sort us out.

  6. Of course it’s often the case that the people at the coal face, so to speak, who make things work and the ‘high ups’ screw it all up!
    I believe Derek is retiring soon, so I’m sure he’d be available to take up your offer!

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