UK Boy Scouts consider atheist members

Wayne Bulpitt, UK Chief Commissioner for the Boy Scouts, has posted a video asking its members for input on accepting atheist members. In particular, this would require an alternate, secular, Scout Promise to replace the UK Scout Promise currently in use:

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.

View video from Bulpitt here

Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta also weighed in with an article and noted Scouting founder Lord Baden-Powell considered atheists to be “enemies of the worst sort,” but that was a long time ago.

Let’s hope that the UK can open their hearts and minds to atheist, humanist, and other nontheistic youth. Maybe the UK example can help reform the Boy Scouts here in the US.

In the US, the Boy Scouts are known for overt religiosity and discrimination against those that do not hold to a fundamentalist Christian world-view. In July, the US Boy Scouts reaffirmed their discrimination against gay youth. The exclusion of atheists is still taken as a given. While the Boy Scouts are a private organization, Eagle Scouts enjoy automatic promotion upon enlistment in the military. The Boy Scouts also enjoy federal funding and support in a variety of military regulations. These funding and privileges provide US government support of discrimination.

Unlike the US Boy Scouts, the US Girl Scouts and many international organizations are accepting and supportive of religious diversity, gender identity, and sexual orientation. In the UK, scouting is representing by one organization, the Scout Association, and support boys and girls equally. In addition, the UK Scouts accepts gay and lesbian identified youth. Although World Scouting encourages a duty to God in scout oaths, several countries provide secular alternative such as the one used in Denmark:

On my honor I promise to do my best to be faithful to my country, be helpful to all and to keep the Scout Law

The Girl Scouts also provide a caveat that provides broad flexibility in the duty to God in their oath:

* The word “God” can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on one’s spiritual beliefs. When reciting the Girl Scout Promise, it is okay to replace the word “God” with whatever word your spiritual beliefs dictate.

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