British Scouts consider change to let atheists in

AP News
Posted: Dec 04, 2012 11:57 AM

LONDON (AP) — Atheists could be allowed into Britain's boy and girl scouts after more than a century.

The Scout Association said Tuesday it plans to draft an alternative oath without references to God so that young people who do not have a faith could also join the organization.

The current oath — which will remain in use — reads: "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."

The group has offered alternative versions of the words "duty to God" for Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists for over four decades, but there have been no such exceptions made for atheists.

Wayne Bulpitt, the association's chief commissioner in the UK, said the group is asking its members' views on the proposed alternative to keep the group relevant and to encourage membership.

"We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and religion will remain a key element of the Scouting program. That will not change," he said. "However, throughout our 105-year history, we have continued to evolve so that we remain relevant to communities across the UK."

But he said the group plans to keep its oath to the queen, although non-British citizens living in Britain may pledge duty to "the country in which I am now living."

The scouting movement began more than a century ago and now encompasses some 40 million members worldwide. Scouts in each country run independently and make their own policies.

In October, a San Francisco Bay-area teenager was kicked out of the Boy Scouts of America because of the organization's national policy of excluding gay members. The British Scout Association said they have an equal opportunities policy and welcome people of all sexualities.