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Be prepared... to give heathens a badge: UK Scouts open doors to unbelievers

'Duty to God' dropped from promise

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From next year, British atheists and their offspring will be able to join the Scouting movement without having to lie or breach their Scout's honour, thanks to an amended promise.

All Scouts, and Scout leaders, are required to make the promise. The words vary with age group, and alternatives exist for different religions, but until now there's been no atheistic version so members who don't believe in any god have been forced to make an empty promise. But come January, Scouts will get an option on a new promise which takes the Big Guy out of the picture entirely:

On my honour I promise that I will do my best
To uphold our Scout values, to do my duty to the Queen,
To help other people
And to keep the Scout Law.

...the second line currently reads "To do my duty to God and to the Queen", and Scouts will be free to continue using that version if they prefer. The other groups (Beavers, Cubs, Explorers) also get god-free variations of their own promises.

They can also take advantage of the other existing options for Muslims (who can only swear by Allah) and Hindus (who can be a little polytheistic), who have already been accommodated by the Scouting movement.

The change comes following years of consultation with the 400,000 or so UK members, of whom 15,000 responded and overwhelmingly supported the change. Only amongst those over 56 was there any reticence, and even in that age group, well over half were happy to see the back of god.

Despite its traditions, Scouting has always been flexible, and various countries have avoided mandating religious devotion as the UK will shortly do. British Scouts (and Cubs and Beavers) started admitting girls in 1991 (Explorers having been coeducational since 1976) and the UK never had the ban on homosexual membership which still applies to "leaders" in the US.

Which means anyone can now join the movement with a clear conscience, or perhaps nearly everyone as the FAQ explains:

"We would find it unlikely that someone who truly identified as a Satanist would be able to honestly sign up to the values of Scouting." ®

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