The father of an atheist boy banned from the Scouts because he wouldn’t pledge a “duty to God” has welcomed the possibility of the organisation changing their rules to allow it.
Nick Pratt’s son George was told he couldn’t attend Scouts anymore, even though the 11-year-old was very keen, because he told them he didn’t believe in God so couldn’t do his Scout Promise.
For more than 40 years, Hindus, Muslims and children of other faiths have said a specially-adapted version of the Scout Promise, but when George was asked to do his pledge after going to Scouts in Midsomer Norton for seven months, his atheist views became known.
Now, the national leaders of the Scout movement said they would consult on proposed changes designed to increase diversity in the movement.
The proposal would see the promise adapted for atheists and just mention the Queen, rather than God as well. “We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and religion will remain a key element of the Scouting programme. That will not change,” said Wayne Bulpitt, the association’s chief commissioner.
“However, throughout our 105-year history, we have continued to evolve so that we remain relevant. We do that by regularly seeking the views of our members,” he added.
Mr Pratt said he welcomed the move. “I am pleased, yes, because it is something they needed to think about,” he said.
“They didn’t have a consistent position on it, saying he could promise to God, but then renounce the God bit later,” he added.
Mr Pratt said they hadn’t thought about George joining the Scouts again if the rules were changed. “We’re happy if they do this. I think he would probably like to go back, but it depends on the reception he gets, we’re just biding our time and seeing what happens,” he said.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said the consultation was a “move in the right direction” and would put an end to “unpleasant confrontations” such as that of George.
“By adjusting their promise to include people without a religious belief, the Scouts will bring themselves in line with the reality of 21st century Britain, where more than two-thirds of young people say they have no religious belief,” he said.
“If the Scouts decide to change the promise, it would relieve many young people of having to lie about what they believe in order to be part of this great organisation.”
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 LAW
A Scout is to be trusted.
A Scout is loyal.
A Scout is friendly and considerate.
A Scout belongs to the worldwide family of Scouts.
A Scout has courage in all difficulties.
A Scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property.
A Scout has self-respect and respect for others.