Another Scout Bashing Organisation

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 Angry

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. 
Bet I get a wishy washy reply.

10 Replies to “Another Scout Bashing Organisation”

  1. This is an age old topic here in the US also.
    It too will pass. The sooner these folks understand that the Scouting movement is an arganization with values and ethics they will get it… Oh no they won’t!.
    Listen… if you do not want to make a promise to be faithful and do your duty to God and Country (US) or God and Queen (UK).. then don’t. I am sure there is another group you can join..but leave Scouting alone.
    This gets under my skin too.. but over here, we just let the wackos do their thing and move on.

    I had a parent that was upset about her son being “Forced” to pledge Duty to God. I explained to her that no one is forcing him to do anything… he joined the group, we did not join him. One look at the Scout Handbook and he knew what he was getting into.. and so did the parent. I told her that we would not stop saying the Scout Oath and that was the end of that. They ended up leaving. I am sorry for that, but the point was made, taken, and resolution was had on both parts.

    Keep you chin up.


  2. Well I’ve had a nice polite reply to my e-mail from the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association. Nothing from the National Secular Society though!
    In the reply she stated that she respected Scouting and its work just not the religious bits! I just wished the press reports had stated that.
    Anyway, it seems that we will have to agree to differ!

    Whatever a person’s race, colour, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or special needs there is a place for them in the Scouts. After all it’s all about having fun! I’m sure BP said something about Scouting being a game.

  3. Nick,
    I’m with you and other Scouters on this one. It irritates me to no end when the orginations feel the need to bash and attack positive orginations like Scouting wheather it be Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. I admire you for taking a stand and making your voice heard and taking action, instead of cowering away and complaining behind the door. So thank you for kicking the door down and let what Scouting stands for be heard.
    Yours In Scouting

  4. I certainly understand your frustration, and the frustration of the opposition as well. As a Buddhist I have to do a few mental gymnastics when reciting the Scout oath. Buddhism does not have a God and thus do not accept the belief of divine guidance.
    So when I pledge my ‘duty to God’ I am pledging to aspire towards enlightenment. No real problem, just a little tiresome.
    I have often thought how simple and inclusive it would be to exchange the word ‘God’ for ‘my beliefs’. In this way the broadest concepts of Scouting would be preserved with little room for argument.
    In reality this change reflects what we actually practice in recognizing the value of faith in it’s many permutations. What the Christian defines as God will differ from the Buddhist and the Buddhist from the Wiccan, and the Wiccan from the Muslim and the muslim from the atheist. Yet we can all live as honorable, compassionate and upstanding individuals.

  5. Fascinating to read Gary and Clarke’s points of view from the States (if I’m making incorrect assumptions Clarke, please tell me!).
    I think that whatever your religion, Scouting is there to promote a positive moral outlook to life.

  6. It’s good to see some convergence between what appear at first reading to be intractable differences. The Daily Telegraph article would, predictably, give a rightist bias that encourages the scouting apologists to cry out in frustration.
    However when it comes down to the essential issue here, it is the importance of words. They DO matter, and to dismiss the humanist criticism by stating that “God” can stand for whatever you believe in is just too naive.
    It is also disappointing that some in the Scouting movement regard this as “Scout bashing”. Scouting remains an excellent and worthy organisation despite the problem with the Oath.

  7. How can a campaign that is designed to allow more people to join the Scouts be described as “Scout bashing”? It’s the exact opposite! The Scouts movement is supposed to be inclusive – just so long as you’re not a republican atheist (or a monarchist atheist in the USA). God and Queen are irrelevant to ethics and morality.

  8. The Swedish Scout Association changed the first law from “A Scout is reverent of God and his word” to “A Scout seeks his faith and respect other’s” which I as an agnostic felt was very relieving: It means that the heavy word God, all too often associated with only the Christian faith, is taken out and all faiths are included, including the faith in oneself.

    The Swedish Scout’s promise have read as below since the 1970ies:
    I promise to, after my best ability, to follow the scout law
    which I also think it’s nice, because, although we’re a monarchy (on paper) there are other people that might be as important to revere than the King (who just happens to be our Chief Scout too) I am sure that he has NO problem with that either.

    I think some people (I know I do) react to the value of the words: Putting God, Queen, King, President, Country or what not in, somehow signals that someone, or something, has a greater value than something else, and weather that be beliefs, nation, way of living, I find it exclusive. I believe everyone to be equally worth reverence and respect, including myself; all countries as worthy as another, all believes to be worth exploring and considered. But that is me.

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