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Boy Scouts remove 'God' from oath in UK, welcome atheists to the ranks

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 9 2013 6:10 p.m. MDT

In what secularists hail as a step toward welcoming atheists into the Boy Scouts, the Britain Scouting Association has approved an alternate version of the Scout Promise that makes no mention of God.

For more than a century, British Scouts have promised: "On my honor, 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."

NBC News reported Monday that "the first part of the promise (was) tweaked to read: 'I promise that I will do my best to uphold our Scout values.’ ”

Scouting officials in the U.K. said the Scout Promise has been altered before to accommodate Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and non-citizens who are not subjects of the queen.

Wayne Bulpitt, U.K. chief commissioner for the Scouting Association, told NBC the change is proof the Scouting movement continues to evolve and is all-inclusive. But he noted one thing remains unchanged: “We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and beliefs remains a key element of the Scouting Programme. That will not change.”

Opposing Views reported that the change comes "after the British Girl Guides’ decision in June to also remove the phrase 'to love my God' from their pledge. Girl Guides are now asked to 'be true to myself and develop my beliefs.’ ”

Secularists lauded the Boy Scouts' decision to offer an alternate promise as a step forward and a relief after a long campaign to make a change.

"Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, called it a 'progressive decision of welcoming non-religious young people and adults of good conscience,’ ” the Huffington Post reported. “It means that the Scout movement is at last open to everyone, and young people who don't have a religious belief can join in good conscience.”

The Rt. Rev. Paul Butler of the Church of England said, "I very much welcome this announcement by the Scout movement that God stays in the Promise,” Opposing Views reported. “In enabling people of all faiths and none to affirm their beliefs through an additional alternative ... the Scout movement has demonstrated that it is both possible, and I would argue preferable, to affirm the importance of spiritual life and not to restrict meaning to arbitrary self-definition.”

The Boy Scouts of America's Scout Oath or Promise reads: "On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."

Email: mbrown@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @deseretbrown

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