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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 7, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 49
Equal time: British Boy Scouts writing Scout Promise for atheists
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Equal time: British Boy Scouts writing Scout Promise for atheists

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

While the Boy Scouts of America bars Gays, agnostics, and atheists from membership and leadership roles, the British Scouting organization has never discriminated against Gay scouts or scout leaders, and is now rewriting its Scout Promise to accommodate atheists.

The U.K. Scout Association announced December 4 that it was beginning a 'consultation' to see if its members would accept a version of the Promise that omits reference to 'God.'

Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim scouts already have specially tailored versions that respect their religious traditions.

In the standard version, British scouts say, 'On my honor, 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.'

Hindu and Buddhist scouts may use the words 'my Dharma' instead of 'God.'

Muslim scouts may start with the invocation 'In the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the ever-merciful,' and substitute the name 'Allah' for 'God.'

Scouts who are not citizens of the U.K. may promise to do their 'duty to the country in which I am now living,' rather than to the Queen.

More than 50 Scout groups based in Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh communities have opened in the last 10 years.

STAYING RELEVANT
While Scout officials said that values will remain a key feature of Scouting, atheists may soon have a Scout Promise of their own that does not force them to affirm a belief in a deity.

'We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and religion will remain a key element of the Scouting program. That will not change.' U.K. Scout Chief Commissioner Wayne Bulpitt told BBC News.

'However, throughout our 105-year history, we have continued to evolve so that we remain relevant to communities across the U.K.

'We do that by regularly seeking the views of our members and we will use the information gathered by the consultation to help shape the future of Scouting for the coming years.'

NON-RELIGIOUS GROWING
Britain's National Secular Society said in March that atheist children and potential scout leaders were being alienated by the references to God in the Scout Promise.

The group's president, Terry Sanderson, said the consultation was 'a move in the right direction.'

'By adjusting their promise to include people without a religious belief, the Scouts will bring themselves in line with the reality of 21st century Britain,' Sanderson added.

According to the British Humanist Association, a group that campaigns for an end to mandatory references to God or religion, two-thirds of Britain's young people report they are not religious, and 'a growing proportion' say they do not believe in God.

The British Girl Guides - the equivalent of the Girl Scouts of America - announced they would begin a similar consultation in 2013. In March, the Girl Guides adopted new uniform options to accommodate Muslim members.

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