Tuesday’s Telegraph has some heartening news from the ever-secularizing United Kingdom: the Girl Guides (the UK equivalent of the American Girl Scouts) have dropped their promises, when being sworn in, to “loving God” and “serving my country.” This also appears to hold for the nascent Girl Guides, known in both the US and UK as “Brownies.” Girl Guides have been around for over a century, and at last they’re going godless:
In one of the biggest changes in the organisation’s 103-year history, the promise to “love my God” is to be replaced with a more individualistic pledge to “be true to myself” and to “develop my beliefs”.
And a patriotic commitment to serving their country is to become one to the “community” in the oath taken by Brownies and Guides when they join the organisation.
But in a consultation which attracted almost 44,000 responses Guides made clear that they wanted to retain a public expression of allegiance to the Queen, who is also their patron.
A vow to “help other people” and to “do my best” are also to remain in the new promise, which will take effect from September.
It is not the first time that the organisation, founded in 1909 under the leadership of Agnes Baden-Powell, sister of Robert Baden-Powell, the creator of the Scouting movement, has altered the wording of its traditional promise over the last century but it is by far the most radical change.
The rethink followed the appointment of the group’s new chief executive, Julie Bentley, the former head of The Family Planning Association, who described the Guides as “the ultimate feminist organisation”.
I suspect there are some who will take issue with the last sentence.
But it’s all good, even though allegiance to the monarchy—indeed, the monarchy itself—is outmoded and should be dropped as well.
Before making this decision, the organization consulted with the Girl Guides themselves, and one outspoken young atheist weighed in:
Among responses to the consultation, one young girl wrote that she felt like she was “lying to the Brownies” by making a promise to a God in whom she did not believe.
But of course there’s the usual dissent:
Stephen Evans, campaigns manager at the National Secular Society, said: “By omitting any explicit mention of God or religion the Guide Association has grasped the opportunity to make itself truly inclusive and relevant to the reality of 21st century Britain.
“The new secular promise can now be meaningful and relevant to all guides and potential leaders, whatever their beliefs – and sends a clear signal that Girlguiding is equally welcoming to all girls.”
But Andrea Williams of Christian Concern said: “It sounds like jargon from a consumerist self-help manual completely at odds with the true ethos of the Guiding organisation which was set up to encourage belief in God and a corporate identity, not about individualism but to understand what it really is to be part of a community.”
Of course, the Girl Scouts in America must still swear fealty to an invisible deity. One of their websites makes this clear:
2. Has Girl Scouts removed the word “God” from the Girl Scout Promise?
The Girl Scout Promise contains the word “God”. According to the Girl Scout Constitution, “The motivating force in Girl Scouting is spiritual. The ways in which members identify and fulfill their spiritual beliefs are personal and private.”
The Girl Scout Promise is as follows:
On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
The Boy Scouts in the U.S. also continue to ban atheists, or at least force new Scouts to swear allegiance to God. And this despite their recent decision that gays could now be Scouts.
It’s time for America to follow the UK lead and drop the allegiance-to-God business. You can be a good Scout without God.