Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Scouts add Alternative Promise for Atheists

After a consultation with over 15,000 responses, the scouts have taken a different route to the Guides. Instead of replacing the existing promise, there's now a non-religious alternative:

Alternative versions of the Scout Promise have been available for nearly 50 years and have been used by Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and those who live in the UK but are not UK citizens. This is the first time that the Movement has introduced a Promise for members and potential members who are without a faith.

The core Scout Promise, which refers to a ‘Duty to God’, remains intact and Scouting remains fully committed as a Movement that explores faith and religion as a core element of its programme.

and here it is..

The existing Scout 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.
New alternative wording of the Promise
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.
For Cub Scout section: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 Cub Scout Law.
For Beaver Scout sectionI promise to do my best
To be kind and helpful and to love our world.
'Belief' remains one of the 5 'core values of Scouting'. All the more important after the recent findings about the quality of RE teaching in schools. This is unpacked a bit more in the very comprehensive FAQs page:
Scouting is not about ‘teaching’ religion, however it does encourage and enable young people to explore faith, beliefs and attitudes. This is in Scouting’s five principles of spiritual reflection, which are:
1.    To develop an inner discipline and training
2.    To be involved in corporate activities
3.    To understand the natural world around them
4.    To help to create a more tolerant and caring society
5.    To discover the need for spiritual reflection
Just as with the Guides, here is a youth movement committed to exploring questions of faith, spirituality etc. That hasn't changed with the addition of the alternative promise, which seems a sensible way to go. The best way for churches to engage with this is simply to get involved with their local units. It would be great to see the CofE respond with some resources that could be appropriately used by local churches with their scout and guide groups, though I suspect the best route to that is finding good practice at local level and then spreading it around.  


  1. So where does this lead the Christian Scout leader who has promised to do HIS duty to God when he has to offer an "atheists' promise"? Why won't The Scout Association make its research available to its leaders or anyone else, just a one page summary? Why was the consultation undertaken when atheists weren't excluded from scouting anyway? Who were the 35% of respondents who weren't members of The Scout Association? Why so much emphasis in the consultation on "relevance" when it doesn't mean "better"?

  2. Anon. Do you think a Christian scout leader (if you can find one) would be doing his duty to God by making atheists swear an oath to a God they don't believe in? Atheists are, by the way, excluded from being warranted scout leaders, although this seems to be ignored unless the *atheist* wishing to be a scout leader makes a fuss about it.