From The Scout Association (UK) website:
The Scout Association (TSA) has launched an additional alternative version to the core Scout Promise in order to officially welcome atheists into the Movement.
Following an extensive 10-month consultation process within and outside of the Movement, TSA has introduced an additional alternative version of the Scout Promise that can be taken by those without a faith for the first time in its 106-year history. 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 are not UK citizens. This is the first time that the Movement has introduced a Promise for members and potential members who are without a faith.
The announcement of the additional alternative Promise has been welcomed by faith leaders and the British Humanist Association (BHA) as demonstrating inclusiveness of the Movement to all sections of society.
The existing 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.
New alternative wording of the Promise:
On my honour, I promise that I will do my best To uphold our Scout values, to do my duty to the Queen,
To help other people And to keep the Scout Law.
The Scout Association (founded by Baden-Powell himself in 1907 ) serves the United Kingdom (Great Britain) has enjoyed burgeoning growth in the last ten years;
Over the last decade, female youth membership has increased from 29,200 to 77,500 (an increase of 165%), and in the last 10 years, over 50 Scout Groups have been opened that cater for young people who are drawn mainly from the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities. Not only is the Movement growing in these new areas, but it is increasingly popular amongst teenagers; attracting twice as many teenage members as it did in 2002 (18,000 in 2002 compared to 40,000 in 2013).
The addition of an alternative promise (note that this is, indeed, an addition, not a replacement) has been welcomed and supported as by a number of faith leaders .
I, for one, applaud TSA’s decision to be inclusive after a long conversation that solicited opinions from TSA members and the general public. I admire the process as well as the decision. The alternative Scout promise has an interesting history, and several alternatives have been accepted – notably the outlander promise reportedly written by B-P for Scouts that had to omit the reference to God or a monarch for reasons of conscience.
Using alternative promises TSA recognizes that people of faith have different terms for God – Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists have been able to use terms appropriate to their faith or the past fifty years. Offering an alternative for atheists recognizes that Scouting has a vast potential for uniting rather than dividing people of good conscience.
The Promise [PDF] a fact sheet explaining The Scout Association promise.
Summary of the key findings from the consultation [PDF] The additional alternative Scout Promise FAQs
Via Nick at Nick’s Ramblings
S. Dawn Heyse says
Our Cub Scout Pack is chartered to a Catholic church. We currently have both Catholic and Protestant Christian members and at least one Buddhist. In the recent past, we’ve had Muslim members… I also hope there are no BSA units out there who seek to limit their membership based on religious belief, as I believe that would rob our Scouts of the opportunity to learn about the different faith backgrounds of their friends and neighbors.
the kids says
Here in US, the majority of our chartered organizations are first a religious organization. It is my belief that as long as the boy and his parents are aware of this, then there should not be surprise when the scout oath includes that religious organization’s God. I believe that we intermingle in larger activities, such as district and counil camps, jamborees, etc..we grow as individuals when we have both a place to discuss and share our religious basis openly and freely without concern of judgement and then a place where we can join together with others who hold our same basic values while abiding by a different set of religious beliefs. We need both. That being said, alternative oaths/promises allow us to address both situations. I would not expect a Muslim to join a Christian troop. Yet a troop of each engaging in a camping experience would be beneficial to the growth and maturity of each boy involved.
Clarke Green says
I would hope we wouldn’t have exclusively Christian or Muslim troops.
Way to go Clarke. Even 40 years ago when I was a youth, I appreciated the fact that B-P saw Scouting as something that would bring people from all over the world together, regardless of race, religion, nationality, or any other thing that causes us to consider division. It was my Scouting experience of acceptance that took me to my faith and religious experience that I have today. That Scouting seeks to discriminate in any way is beyond comprehension to me. These huge arguements over sexual orientation and religion need to go away in favor of respect and acceptance and the values of the scout Law. Even the Pope is now getting it to say who is he to judge others.
Greg Gotcher says
I understand that this is not a replacement for but an alternative to the existing Promise. I also understand that there are other alternatives for other religions, but those alternatives for other religions are still acknowledging a “God”, just a different word for it.
I have this quote from Baden Powell and just wondering how this all fits?
“The Scout, in his promise, undertakes to do his duty to his king and country only in the second place; his first duty is to God. It is with this idea before us and recognizing that God is the one Father of us all, that we Scouts count ourselves a brotherhood despite the difference among us of country, creed, or class. We realize that in addition to the interests of our particular country, there is a higher mission before us, namely the promotion of the Kingdom of God; That is, the rule of Peace and Goodwill on earth. In the Scouts each form of religion is respected and its active practice encouraged and through the spread of our brotherhood in all countries, we have the opportunity in developing the spirit of mutual good will and understanding.
“There is no religious “side” of the movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.
“Let us, therefore, in training our Scouts, keep the higher aims in the forefront, not let ourselves get too absorbed in the steps. Don’t let the technical outweigh the moral. Field efficiency, back woodsmanship, camping, hiking, Good Turns, jamboree comradeship are all means, not the end. The end is CHARACTER with a purpose.
“Our objective in the Scouting movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth by including among youth the spirit and the daily practice in their lives of unselfish goodwill and cooperation.”
Clarke Green says
Which God is BP speaking of? Is it the Judeo-Christian God? Is it the Hindu Gods? Is it the God of the Sikhs or Muslims? Is it the Buddhist Dharma?
You are wrong that other faiths are included just by altering the word ‘God’, it just isn’t so. Buddhists don’t believe in a a supreme being, are they incapable of upholding the Scout oath and law? If a Buddhist can be a Scout why can’t an atheist?
“In the Scouts each form of religion is respected and its active practice encouraged and through the spread of our brotherhood in all countries, we have the opportunity in developing the spirit of mutual good will and understanding.”
What, precisely, qualifies as a religion? Is it limited to those that follow Abrahamic tradition? Is it only those with a scriptural document of some kind? Is it limited to formally organized bodies of believers? Or is it that a question left to each individual?
If each form of religion is respected, and that the specific definition of what religion means is an individual matter of conscience, is it a great leap to say that a form of philosophy or principles can’t also be respected?
So, basically, what you are stating is that Baden Powell was wrong to say what he said above, at least when it comes to Scouting, correct?
Clarke Green says
No I am not saying that BP was wrong, far from it.
BP was a Christian, and his Christianity informed the way he thought and wrote about Scouting. As time passed and people of other faiths began joining the worldwide movement of Scouting he understood that the principles he’d based Scouting on were shared by other belief systems as well. This led him to expand his thinking a bit and welcome all faiths equally, as I understand it BP himself offered alternatives to the promise to accommodate different faiths. This did not take away anything for Christians, it welcomed other faiths to the movement.
He originally designed Scouting for boys, but girls also wanted to be Scouts so he expanded the movement to include them. This didn’t take away anything for boys, it welcomed girls to the movement.
Adding an alternative promise that welcomes atheists is, to my mind, a reflection of BP’s original intent that Scouting be a worldwide brotherhood and vehicle for world peace. He championed reverence as a Christian himself, but not exclusive of other faiths. His idea of tolerance, acceptance, and mutual goodwill and understanding is the heart of the movement.
Adding an alternative promise does not take anything away from the faithful or negate their faith in any way. It simply allows that an atheist can also be a Scout and uphold the promise and law.
Mike Rossander says
Would it be that much different from the Cub Scout Promise where everyone starts together with “I …”, mumbles their separate names, and then comes back together for “promise to do my best…”?
I guess the difference in syllable count could make that a bit clunky – the alternative version has 5 more syllables.
mike marti says
I too welcome this alternative. I feel that faith is a personal journey. My youngest son who is a Life Scout falls on and out of his belief, he is on his own path to discovery. When he is at large functions he admits to this and I often get a leader or two who pull me aside just to “make me aware” of the situation. I wish we’d simply ask or leaders to live by the oath law & code and leave all the baggage at the door.
Clarke Green says
I hear you, Mike, a lot of young people explore many different ways of looking at the world. I’d like them all to get the benefit of being accepted and respected as individuals in Scouting – it could help them sort things out.
Steven Jarvis (@sjarvis) says
Wow. Being MORE inclusive results in MORE young people participating in the Scouting movement and having access to all the benefits that come from that. Whoodathunk? And allowing more (and more diverse) adults to participate will help alleviate what seems to be a severe shortage of adult leaders in the UK, which will allow even more youth to participate. And, those who prefer a Promise that includes their faith in God (or however you define your higher power) can still have that in their Promise and their lives. Sounds like a win-win to me.
thanks for the link to my blog.
I think the main thing to know about the new Promise is that it is not a replacement for the existing Promise, but an alternative. The existing one is the core Promise and faith remains at the heart of Scouting.
My County Commissioner has written about it and makes a very good point –
“Change has always been part of Scouting. As our Founder, Robert Baden-Powell once said, ‘Scouting is Movement, not an organisation.’”
See the rest here – http://staffordshirescouts.org.uk/2013/10/scouting-for-all-in-staffordshire/
I do hope that the reasons for adding the new promise are understood and people realise that we want to make Scouting open to as many young people as possible so that they all have the opportunity to enjoy all that Scouting has to offer!
Clarke Green says
Thanks to you, Nick, for keeping us all up to date!
Richard Brown says
so how does that work if Scouts are using different promises? We in the US tend to often say ours in unison. Is that just not done?
Honest answer – I’m not sure! To be honest, we don’t have that many occasions where a group of Scouts would say the promise at the same time. I would imagine that the decisions are made locall dependant on the number of Scouts making an alternative Promise.
Larry Hanson says
Not that many occasions? Our troop recites the pledge of allegiance, the oath and the law at the opening of every meeting and court of honor. We recite them on every outing. How do the scouts remember what values are in them if they aren’t reminded of them by recital on a regular basis?
Saying the Promise and Law at the beginning of a meeting isn’t part of our programme (sorry I have no idea what an oath of allegiance is).
However, both are integral parts of the programme.
For example the ‘help other people’ part of the promise is an integral component of the community challenge award.
The ‘ A Scout belongs to the worldwide family of Scouts’ part of the Scout Law is core to the international challenge award, and so on.
Clarke Green says
Thank’s Nick – I was itching to answer for you! Whether the promise and law is recited or committed to memory is nowhere near as important as Scouts actually practicing the ideals embodied in the promise and law.