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British Scouting changes oath

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The Sunday Times - Britain -







June 12, 2005


Scouts granted right to dob-dob for Allah

Colin Gray and Camillo Fracassini

Recruits can forsake God and the Queen


FOR Scouts, it has been as much a part of their movement as jamborees, woggles


the three-fingered salute. Now, after a century, the Scout Association has


its traditional pledge of loyalty to God and to the Queen in favour of a


of multicultural options.


Muslim Scouts can opt to swear to Allah, while atheists can drop God altogether


budding republicans ! can pledge themselves to the state rather than the monarch.


The pledge is taken by all Scouts on joining the movement, which was established


1907. The new variations are intended to reflect the growing diversity of



They represent a rejection of the muscular Christianity and love of monarchy

espoused by Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting.


The changes have horrified some prominent former Scouts. Stephen Pound, the

Labour MP

and chairman of the all-party parliamentary Scout group, called the changes

profoundly retrograde, uncalled for and potentially extremely divisive.


The current pledge, based on that written by Baden-Powell, states: On my

honour, I

promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and to the Queen, to help


people and to keep the Scout law.


Under new guidelines issued to Scout leaders, Muslim Scouts as well as Beavers

and Cubs, the grou! ps to which younger boys belong can pledge their duty to

Allah < BR>and Hindu Scouts to their Dharma. Atheists can promise to live life in good




In addition, children who are not British but live here can promise to do their


to the country in which I am now living instead of promising allegiance to the



For republican recruits, there is the option of pledging duty to the state and


laws of the state. Members whose beliefs are not covered by any of the


alternatives can use other forms of wording agreed between their parents and the

leader of their Scout group.


Scouting is available to all faiths and, therefore, must take account of the

different religious obligations of its members, the new guidelines state.


To meet these circumstances, there are different forms of the Beaver Scout, Cub

Scout and Scout promise that can be made, allowing for the individuals


while upholding the essential spirit ! of the promise.


The phrase to love God and duty to God implies belief in a supreme

being and the acceptance of divine guidance and therefore the word God can be

replaced by Allah, my Dharma or others as appropriate to suit the faith

or religion of the individual concerned.


It is hoped the shift in policy will help to rid the association of its


for being mainly white, middle-class and Christian. The Girl Guides changed


pledge from God to my God more than a decade ago.


Baden-Powell was inspired to found the Scouts after being impressed with the

initiative shown by boys during the siege of the South African town of Mafeking


1899-1900 during the Boer war. His first experimental camp was held on Brownsea

Island off Poole in Dorset in 1907.


There is a vast reserve of loyal patriotism and Christian spirit lying dormant


our nation today, he wrote in his handb! ook, Scouting for Boys, published in



Here in this j oyous brotherhood there is vast opportunity open to all in a


work that shows results under your hands and a work that is worthwhile because


gives every man his chance of service for his fellow men and for God.


Since then, however, scouting has developed into a worldwide movement covering


major religions. Out of 28m Scouts worldwide, a third are Muslim. There are also


Buddhist Scouts, 1m Hindus and 350,000 Sikhs.


In Britain, 1% of the 400,000 Scouts are Muslim and in the past year 10 new


have opened where most of the members are Muslim. These are in Cardiff, Luton


Manchester. The British Scout Association also has Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist and

Rastafarian members.


Its great that the meaning of the Scout promise is acceptable to all faiths

involved with scouting. As a Muslim, I can take my promise side-by-side with

Christians, Sikhs and others, said Amir Cheema, lea! der of the predominantly


1st Bristol Scout Group.


The Scout Associations activities fit perfectly to the community and

family-orientated aspects of Islam. I particularly enjoy the interaction between

Muslim and non-Muslim Scouts.


Narinder Singh Birdi, joint group Scout leader at 13th Southall (Sikh) Group in

London, added: I love scouting because it is so diverse and welcoming to all.


is flexible to fit everybodys needs and I find it sits hand in hand with



The most important part of my faith is the Sikh uniform, scouting works in the

same way. I wear my turban and my Scout scarf with pride. This shows the world

that I

live my life as a Sikh and as a Scout.


Abandoning the traditional pledge is the latest in a long line of changes


by the association to modernise its image and appeal to a generation of children

distracted by pop music, computer games and! the internet.


While the movement whose former members inclu de Sir David Attenborough, David

Beckham and Tony Benn is booming globally, the number of members in the UK has

fallen from more than 650,000 in the 1980s.


A spokesman for the Scout Association said: Young people of Scout age are


to establish their own sense of personal identity and this includes developing


own beliefs and attitudes and a new and personal relationship with their God.


The whole point is that the young people understand and believe what they are

saying and, so long as there is a strong element of morality and duty and they


to live their life in a good, progressive way, then the wording itself is open




Pound, however, said: Scouting is the biggest international youth organisation


what we are now doing is removing one of the central tenets of internationalism,

uniformity and common ethos that we all had.


The point about the promise ! is that you do your duty to God and the Queen. The

minute you start to change that, you create divisions within scouting because


is no single, all-encompassing ethos.



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Maybe I'm dense, but I fail to see how a non-sectarian organization like scouting allowing a scout to individualize the wording for "duty to God" is a bad thing. Being a Baptist, I'd be perfectly happy to only have the Protestant services at Jamboree offered and forego the Catholic, Jewish, etc. services planned. Why should BSA offer religious services other than the one of MY faith? Of course those Protestant service I want at Jamboree shouldn't include any of those holy-rollers raising their hands or speaking in tongues. They'll have to be satisfied with simple Baptist amens.

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I applaud British Scouting, the home of the Scouting movement, for recognizing the diversity of belief in the world today within the Scouting movement, and making changes appropriate to reflecting that. This can only help the Scouting movement overall by making the organization more open to those of other beliefs and not only accepting, but actively encouraging those beliefs as a part of the Scouting movement. I can only hope that this openness spreads to U.S. Scouting as well.

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The Scout Association printed a denial that Scouting is open to atheists, as was reported in the Times article above:We are aware that in some newspapers an incorrect statement is made that Scouting is open to atheists. This of course is not true and we have gone back to those newspapers to clarify this point.http://www.scouts.org.uk/noticeboard/latest.htmSo the Scout Association continues to bar atheists, although they do admit homosexuals.By the way, the Times article is also available here:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1650843,00.html(This message has been edited by fgoodwin)

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No atheists - that's a good thing! :)


Allowing homosexuals - not a good thing. :(


What I meant in my prior post was allowing atheists was a bad thing. I would like to see all Scouts professing duty to God, but professing duty to Allah or Buddha is fine.


Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10(This message has been edited by evmori)

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Can't climb the mountain without getting dirty.



I believe there's a better way than what we (BSA) see these days. I don't know how to find it though, so I fear for the Brits. I'm proud of their Bravery for striking out into the unknown, but I fear their path will not be safe, or simple.


Since we have no control and can only watch the outcome, perhaps, we can just be supportive and optimistically neutral. I'm sure most of us have predetermined thoughts, but here's an opportunity to learn what might happen if we were to step beyond our prejudices and grow in a new direction.





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JD says "here's an opportunity to learn what might happen if we were to step beyond our prejudices and grow in a new direction".


What "might" happen? To learn what actually DID happen, simply read the article:


"In Britain, 1% of the 400,000 Scouts are Muslim . . ."


". . . the number of members in the UK has fallen from more than 650,000 in the 1980s."


What actually did happen was a reduction in membership of almost 40% in 20 years -- is that the "new direction" we want to "grow" into?

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FS, that's not what I said.


The SA is clearly different from BSA in at least two ways: they allow girls, and they allow gays. I don't know when they began doing so -- but I don't think the result is anything we (BSA) should strive to emulate.

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I know we have had this discussion before & I really don't feel like having it again but the BSA recognizes Buddhism as a religion so it fits the mold.


Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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Ed, You're comfortable with atheist group A because BSA says They're OK (BTW, what's the story behind Buddhism being acceptably atheist??), but adamantly refuse to allow Atheist groups B, C and D because . . . ??? I don't understand.



Fgoodwin, For the most part I'll stand by FScouter's words. Throwing your stats around like that confuses the issue. We can't begin to attribute the changes in Scout populations to any particular cause. I believe you want this particular topic to BE the cause, but there's no way to know that. For all we know, without their changes, the SA's numbers might be as poor as our own - though it's getting more difficult to even know the reality of our numbers.



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