Christians Swear Oaths over ‘unholy’ Scout Promise

It’s nice to know that even devout Christians don’t allow facts to alter a good story. The Christian Institute recently got its woggles warped over ‘boy’ Scouts adopting an ‘Islamic’ pledge in Scotland.

Clearly outraged, the Institute reported on ‘plans’ to replace the ‘god and queen’ oath made by UK Scouts as a condition of joining the movement, with one made to ‘Allah, the most Beneficent and Merciful’ in which The Queen is omitted.

Unable to find anyone weighty to support their cause, the Institute wheeled out Richard Cox from the obscure ‘campaign against political correctness’ to rage against the ‘plan’. They also managed to quote a Scout Association official who stated that ‘The Scouts may have been a Christian organisation originally’.

This (non) story is so old it really ought to be on The Antiques Roadshow. For starters, ‘boy’ Scouts stopped existing in Britain in 1967. In 1992, Scouting was opened up to girls. Today, UK Scouting is fully co-ed.

Furthermore, the UK Scout Association has always been open to Muslims. They used to take the ‘Outlander’ promise, which according to tradition, was written by Baden Powell for ‘Scouts that had to omit the reference to God or a monarch for reasons of conscience’. This was later replaced by a Promise option that refers to ‘Allah’.

The UK’s Muslim Scout Fellowship website reports that over a third of the world’s 28 million Scouts are Muslims. This rather flies in the face of the idea that Scouting may have originated as a Christian organisation, particularly as Baden-Powell said ‘Scouting holds no brief for one set of beliefs over another’.

Despite this, atheists and agnostics can only become ‘Associate Members’ of UK Scouting, though they can be full members in Holland, France, Israel and the Czech Republic.

The NSS recently put Scout Association bosses under pressure to consider introducing a promise option that would allow them to become full members in the UK. And despite the initial edgy refusal of their request, the NSS remains quietly hopeful of a policy change.

If (and, more likely, when) that change comes, it will mean that UK Scouting will be open to all. And that, judging by the writings of Scouting’s founder Baden-Powell on this thorny subject, is exactly what he would have wanted.

30 Jan 09