- (Photo: Reuters/Tim Wimborne)
The Scout Association of Great Britain announced Tuesday that it is planning to allow atheist members to join the organization by offering a newly drafted oath that will omit the word "God."
"All bodies have to stay fresh and current, while remaining true to their founding principles," Derek Twine, chief executive of the Scout Association, wrote in a statement for The Telegraph, adding that the association's decision to allow atheist members marks a "historic change" for the century-old organization.
"Let me be quite clear and reassure readers of all backgrounds: the original Scout Promise will remain untouched, but for those who have no faith, there would be a new alternative," Twine added.
Additionally, Wayne Bulpitt, chief commissioner for the Scouts Association in the U.K., told The Associated Press that the organization will take a poll among its members to determine whether the proposed change should be made.
Bulpitt said the purpose of the change was to continue relevancy and growth in membership.
"We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and religion will remain a key element of the Scouting program. That will not change," Bulpitt told AP.
"However, throughout our 105-year history, we have continued to evolve so that we remain relevant to communities across the U.K.," he added.
Currently, the Scout's oath reads: "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."
Alternatives have been made to those of different religions, including Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, but never has a Scout member been able to completely omit the use of the word "God."
Bulpitt confirmed to AP that the allegiance to the queen said in the oath will remain, although members who do not have British residency may simply attribute allegiance to the country of Great Britain.
This change in the Scout Association's traditions comes after atheist 11-year-old, George Pratt, was banned from the Somerset chapter of the Scouts in October because he refused to give an oath to God.
At the time of Pratt's complaint, a Scouts spokesman argued that children should, by the time they pledge to the association, have a comprehensive understanding of the existence of God.
"Young people are required to show both an understanding, relevant to their age, and an acceptance of the promise before they become a member," the spokesman said, as previously reported by The Christian Post.
The Scouts Association of the U.K. was founded in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell as a part of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.