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Scouts defend ‘duty to God’

26 October 2012


THE Scout Association has defended its requirement that Scouts should promise to do their "duty to God", after a boy who is an atheist refused to do so.

The Bristol Post reported last week that George Pratt (above), aged 11, from Midsomer Norton, in Somer­set, could not be invested as a full Scout because, as an atheist, he did not feel able to make the Scout Promise. The promise states: "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."

George's father, Nick Pratt, told the newspaper that he believed that the Scouts had been "narrow-minded" in refusing to allow George to be invested as a Scout because he would not make a promise to God. 

A spokesman for the Scout Asso­ciation said: "All young people are required to make the Scout Promise if they wish to become a Scout. This is part of the fundamentals of Scout­ing. Variations of the Scout Promise are available for different faiths, such as the use of 'Allah' to replace 'God' for Muslim Scouts.

"However, all the variations of the promise recognise the 'duty to God' element. Young people are required to show both an understanding - relevant to their age - and an ac­cept­ance of the Promise before they become a member."

In a letter published in The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, Sarah Dale, from Lichfield, said that her eldest son, Tom, who is an atheist, "joined the 7th Lichfield Scout group a number of years ago, swearing 'to serve humanity and the Queen'."

The Scout Association spokesman said that pledging to serve "human­ity" instead of God was not accept­able, and that local Scouting managers would be looking into it.

The head of public affairs at the British Humanist Association, Pavan Dhaliwal, said that the Scout Promise "either excludes the non-religious, or forces them to make a dishonest state­ment. It is unaccept­able that organ­isa­tions which receive large amounts of public funding should be allowed to discriminate in this way."

The Woodcraft Folk, which de­scribes itself as an "educational movement for children and young people", is seen by some as a secular alternative to the Scouts. It does not require that children who join should make a promise to God.

The Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, is a Christian, and helps to promote the Alpha course.

Question of the Week: Should the Scout Promise still include a reference to God?

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