Scouts offer atheist options – but cling to Christian oath

The Scouts have refused to dump religious words from their membership pledge, but offered concessions to secular groups by introducing an atheist alternative text.

Just months after the girl guides dropped all mention of God from their oath, the Scouts have brought in an alternative atheist pledge, which will stand alongside its Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist options.

The new wording for atheists reads: "On my honour I promise that I will do my best to uphold our Scout values, to do my duty to the Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout law."

New Scouts will still be able to opt for the religious version, however, which reads: "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."

Church leaders, who feared the Scouts would go the same way as the Girl Guides and drop all mentions of God, welcomed the move.

Girl Guides replaced the words "love my God" with a pledge to be "true to myself" and "serve my community".

But the decision, which came after a 10-month consultation, was also welcomed by secular groups.

"In taking the progressive step of welcoming non-religious people of good conscience, they have shown that they genuinely wish to be a movement open to all," British Humanist Association chief executive Andrew Copson said.

"Their initiative sends out a strong signal that the vast majority of young people who do not see themselves as belonging to any religion have values that are worthy of respect and should be explicitly welcomed and catered for in any activity that seeks to be genuinely inclusive."

Scout officials said the retention of the Christian pledge meant the organisation continued to have "faith and religion as a core element of its programme".

Scout chief commissioner Wayne Bulpitt said: "Throughout its 106-year history the movement has continued to evolve and today marks an important step in that journey.

"It also signifies the determination to become truly inclusive and relevant to all sections of society that it serves.

"We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and beliefs remains a key element of the Scouting programme. That will not change."

The new pledge comes into force on January 1st.