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British scouts can drop God in alternative 'atheist' promise

The first part of the British scouting promise now says:
The first part of the British scouting promise now says:Danny Lawson / PA via AP, file

A new “atheist” version of the Scout Promise with no mention of God or faith is to be introduced by the British branch of the organization for children who say they are not religious.

For the first time in its 106-year-history, Britain's Scouting Association will offer a non-religious alternative to the Scout promise aimed at members and potential members who are “without a faith.”

Generations of young people have pledged: "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".

A new optional wording would see the first part of the promise tweaked to read: "I promise that I will do my best to uphold our Scout values."

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 who are not UK citizens.

But after an extensive 10-month consultation the movement has introduced a pledge for members and potential members who are without a faith.

“Throughout its 106-year history the Movement has continued to evolve and today marks an important step in that journey,” said Wayne Bulpitt, U.K. Chief Commissioner for The Scouting Association.   

“It also signifies the determination to become truly inclusive and relevant to all sections of society that it serves,” he added. “We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and beliefs remains a key element of the Scouting Programme. That will not change.”

The additional alternative version to the Scout Promise will be available to be used by Scout Groups from January 2014.

It follows a decision by the British Girl Guides to drop the phrase "to love my God" from their promise in June 2013.  Instead, girls joining the organisation are now asked to "be true to myself and develop my beliefs".

The National Secular Society, which has long campaigned for an end to the exclusion of the non-religious in the Scouts, said it was pleased that public pressure had finally paid off.

"This is a massive step forward and we welcome it,” Terry Sanderson the president of the non-party-political organization which campaigns for the separation of religion and state, said.

“It means that the Scout movement is at last open to everyone, and young people who don't have a religious belief can join in good conscience,” he added.

However a Church of England spokesman, the Rt. Revd. Paul Butler, said it was ere pleased that the Scout movement would keep a "Duty to God" in its core promise.

"I very much welcome this announcement by the Scout movement that God stays in the Promise,” he said. “I particularly welcome the opportunity we have been given to contribute to this consultation and support the outcome which ensures that a duty to God remains in the core scout promise.

“In enabling people of all faiths and none to affirm their beliefs through an additional alternative promise the Scout movement has demonstrated that it is both possible, and I would argue preferable, to affirm the importance of spiritual life and not to restrict meaning to arbitrary self-definition.”