Yesterday The Telegraph ran a piece on how the time may be coming that sees the non-religious able to join The Scouts and make a Scout Promise that doesn’t include a pledge ‘To do my duty to God and to the Queen, To help other people, And to keep the Scout Law.’ Derek Twine, the Chief Executice of The Scout Association said in The Telegraph article
No other group aside from non-believers is excluded from the Scouts on the grounds of religion or belief. We already welcome those with no faith as associate members and into a variety of support roles. But what we are looking at now is whether there might be a way of extending full membership to more people
He went on to explain that they’re inviting all Scouts of every age to answer the question ‘Should we now offer a Scout Promise for atheists?’
There will be those, of course, who say that this shouldn’t happen – Twine explained they would have to listen to their members, to other interested parties, including the churches and other bodies, to understand how 21st-century British society feels about the fact that many feel excluded. The majority, though, will be screaming ‘Yes, For goodness sake, yes! This is 2012, for crying out loud!’. Many have already taken to social media to ponder what this could mean for children like 11-year-old George Pratt who was denied Scout membership because he didn’t want to make a promise to God and there was no alternative.
Personally I’m not that excited about this potential development. If The Scout Association becomes compatible with the non-religious then that’s nothing spectacular. It’s a move long overdue.
There’s another reason I’m not that excited either. When George Pratt’s story hit the headlines back in October I contacted The Scout Association and asked them to clarify exactly why George couldn’t make an alternative pledge that didn’t involve a god. At the time I asked the Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications for The Scout Association, Simon Carter whether the Scouts felt that their requirement to make a promise to the duty of god is outdated in a country that is rapidly becoming more and more secular, especially considering the fact that children are wanting to join but not able to. His reasoning in the press had been…
“Scouting accepts that as they grow into independent adults, some young people may question or doubt the existence of God as they develop their personal spiritual understanding”
I pointed out that this failed to acknowledge those who’ve already developed that independence and doubt about god. His less-than-enlightening response was
It’s because we require those who become members to believe in a higher being. It’s that simple.
I asked Simon if such a higher power could include Zeus, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, or perhaps The Higgs Boson, but was informed it had to be a god with a serious organised religion that has a belief framework. I felt bad because I thought my idea about making a pledge to the Higgs Boson might have created a loophole for George Pratt to exploit. No such luck.
Considering this email conversation with Simon Carter, imagine my surprise when I read the recent news that The Scout Association were considering whether to let the non-religious have a non-religious pledge. I emailed Simon straight away to ask about the sudden change of heart. He responded by telling me
We have been thinking about this for sometime. We always review matters like this every 10 to 15 years as a matter of course. We are a Movement that’s what we do.
This consultation is just a matter of course. It might work in the favour of the non-religious this time, and that’s genuinely great – but it didn’t Fifteen years ago and that should be (and is) concerning. Are we supposed to feel grateful that people who don’t believe in a god are now starting to be considered as worthy of membership?
It’s a shame The Scout Association couldn’t move with the times.
It’s what movements do…