The Scouts’ promise – only for the religious
UK scouts must be prepared to make the 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.
The Scout Association’s website claims that,
Scouting is open to all young people aged 6 to 25 of every faith and background. There are also plenty of opportunities for adults to become involved as Leaders, Assistants or Administrators.
However, what it doesn’t say is that scouting is not open to those who don’t have a faith. Since 65% of 12–19 year-olds aren’t religious, this policy effectively excludes a majority of young people.
On 24 January, Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society and Hanne Stinson of the British Humanist Association met the Scouts’ Chief Executive, Derek Twine, together with Scout Company Executive David Shelmerdine and the Chairman of Trustees Mike Goodison. Keith and Hanne sought to persuade the Scouts to change its discriminatory policy and make the religious part of its promise optional. So far, the Scouts have refused to consider this.
The NSS has offered to fund a poll of Scouts to find out of they support the continuation of a ban on non-believers, but its offer was refused.
So if you’re not a believer (the Scouts will accept all faiths, they say, but not someone with no faith), you’re either excluded, or you’d have to lie and pretend to believe – which is hardly the sort of behaviour that the Scouts encourage.
The Scouts need more leaders, but their discriminatory policy effectively excludes a significant number of adults who’d otherwise become enthusiastic leaders.
When I discussed this issue on BBC Radio Suffolk today (10 February) with presenter Rachel Sloane and the Scouts’ County Commissioner, I got the impression that he really didn’t understand the problem. Several listeners phoned or emailed with their comments, which included,
Humanists should not impose their beliefs on the Scouts. They’ve [presumably the Scouts] have been going a long time.
If they’re not happy they should start their own organisation.
They’re trying to be politically-correct (from a local Cub Scout leader). There must be other youth organisations they can join.
They should develop an alternative organisation.
If you know anyone who’s affected by this issue, please get in touch.