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 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?