From today’s Daily Telegraph –
Scout’s oath ‘is religious discrimination’
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
The Scout Association has been reported to the equality watchdog for allegedly discriminating against atheists by making them swear an oath to God.
Ever since Lord Baden-Powell founded the 100-year-old organisation, the promise by scouts to do their duty to God and the Queen has been as much a part of their movement as jamborees, woggles and the three-fingered salute.
Scouting for Boys author Lord Baden-Powell: “discriminates against atheists”
Now, however, it has become the latest target of secularists when the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association complained to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
They are furious that the Scout Association is refusing to scrap the pledge required of every new member, which they said was excluding “a growing number of children without belief”.
Members in Britain, where there are nearly half a million scouts, have to promise to “do their best to do their duty to God and to the Queen”, to help other people and to keep Scout law.
To accommodate the movement’s 28 million members around the world, the words can be modified to encompass non-Christian faiths.
The Scout guidelines state: “The phrase ‘to love God’ and ‘duty to God’ implies belief in a supreme being and the acceptance of divine guidance and therefore the word ‘God’ can be replaced by ‘Allah’, ‘my Dharma’ or others as appropriate to suit the faith or religion of the individual concerned.”
But the two secular bodies said in a joint letter to Derek Twine, the chief executive of the Scout Association, that the requirement for members to have a faith should now be made optional.
They said that the Association’s stance was “completely unacceptable” for an organisation “that is so committed to personal development of young people and that claims to foster mutual understanding between different beliefs, which of course should include those of no belief.”
They also criticised it for claiming on its website that it was “inclusive”, and called on it to make ambiguously clear that it was a religious organisation. Scouting leaders said that they had no intention of changing the oath drawn up by Lord Baden-Powell, a “muscular Christian” who believed that faith was an essential element in the development of young people.
Stephen Peck, the Association’s director of programmes and development, said: “It is fundamental to scouting that young people are helped to understand their spirituality. It is in our lifeblood.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission, which was set up in October and which is headed by Trevor Phillips, said it was committed to a vision of fairness, but it was too early to comment on this case.
Scout Oath (or Promise)
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.
I give up
Why is it people are always negative about Scouting? Stuff all the positive thing we do!
I don’t see them having a go at the Guides, Boys Brigade or Girls Brigade. I guess we’re just a big target! So I’ve grumbled to them!
Dear Sirs,I am rather disappointed to read about your joint attack on The Scout Association and religion.First of all, let me state my position. I am a Group Scout Leader with a very long established Scout Group (we are 100 this year in fact). We are a Group which is sponsored by a local Church of England Parish. Being sponsored by the Church means that we get the use of the Church’s hall facilities free of charge and occasional financial support for Leader training. In return we help out at the Church’s Summer and Christmas Fairs to help raise money for the Church’s upkeep. We also attend Church services four times a year.The vicar of the Church will pop in to one of our meetings occasionally to say hello and speak to our young people.At no point do we ‘force’ religion down our young people’s throats or try to ‘convert them’ to believe in Christianity. Nor do we or can we force our young people to attend services and we will not penalise them for not doing so.Scouting is open to all young people without prejudice to their faith (or lack of), sexuality or needs. The general idea is to have fun, do new things, to learn new skills whilst doing so and to be well rounded citizens.If a young person wanted to join us and specifically stated that they were an atheist that would be fine. When explaining the Promise, I would say that Duty to God means their own personal God. If they do not believe in a Supreme Being then I would say that it refers to their personal beliefs and morals. I assume that not believing in God does not preclude the person from having strong moral and ethical beliefs.I notice that your complaint is just about the Scout Association. Why not the Guides, Boys Brigade and Girls Brigade? As I understand it, the Guides operate a similar position to the Scouts and the Boys and Girls Brigades actually promote Christianity.Please do not make frivolous complaints about organisations whose primary concerns are the development of young people and those young people enjoying themselves. Your complaint can only detract from this and cost all organisations involved money which would be better spent on young people.