(Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville)
A Girl Guides group in Newcastle, Great Britain, is refusing to drop "God" from its pledge and could face loss of national recognition from the youth organization if it refuses to comply with new rules.
Glynis Mackie, the leader of the church-based Newcastle troop, known as the 37th Newcastle Guide Unit at Jesmond Parish Church, said she recently received a letter from the national organization threatening her group would be dropped from recognition if she continues to allow "God" to be referenced in the girls' pledge.
Beginning in September, the country's female youth organization, which is the English equivalent to Girl Scouts in the U.S., dropped a reference to God from its oath. The new pledge drops all references to God and country but maintains allegiance to the Queen of England, the youth organization's sponsor. "I promise that I will do my best: to be true to myself and develop my beliefs, to serve the Queen and my community, to help other people and to keep the (Brownie) Guide Law," reads the new oath.
Mackie, who has led the Newcastle-based group for 25 years, told The Chronicle Evening Gazette that she refused to drop the old oath because the new oath is a "fridge magnet promise that doesn't really mean anything." The girls have reportedly been given until Dec. 31 before their group, which consists of 100 girls in Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers, is disassociated from the national youth organization.
The group's leader added to The Chronicle Evening Gazette that she is disappointed in the short notice she's been given by the national organization, and was hoping that the girls would be able to have a choice as to whether they want to reference God in their pledge or not. "The only thing we want for the girls is for them to have a choice. This surprisingly aggressive letter says that we 'will not use' the new Promise and that simply isn't true. We would use this new form of words but we want the children to have to choice to say the old Promise if they want to.
"This is the first substantial change to the promise in the 103-year history of the Girl Guides. The change they propose wasn't honestly investigated and we couldn't appeal the decision."
Mackie added to The Daily Mail that she believes the new pledge "sidelines" faith.
"This is an example of people not realizing the importance of faith, of all faiths, in our community," she said. "I would go as far as saying that it is an example of faith being sidelined in society.
"I imagine changing the pledge was intended to include more people, but what it is actually doing is excluding those who have faith ... I understand why an atheist might not want to make a promise to God, and that is fine by me, but it has to be up to the individual."
Gill Slocombe, head of the Girl Guides organization, said in a statement that the purpose of omitting God and country from the oath was to be more welcoming to girls of all religions. "By changing the wording of our promise, after an extensive consultation with over 44,000 people, we have opened our arms to welcome even more girls and adults – of all faiths and none – who will benefit from all the fantastic things we do in girl guiding."
"We hope the new wording will help us reach out to girls and women who might not have considered guiding before, so that even more girls can benefit from everything guiding can offer."