(Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville)
Great Britain's female youth organization Girl Guides officially dropped its "God" reference from its oath beginning Sept. 1, and while supporters have heralded the decision as being "all-inclusive," many others argue the move sets a dangerous precedent of "secular totalitarianism."
Following a consultation period that resulted in 44,000 responses from people associated with Girl Guides, the organization decided in June that beginning in September, the youth organization's oath would drop a reference to God, replacing it with a pledge to "be true to myself and develop my beliefs." The oath would also be altered from "serving one's country" to "serving one's community." Allegiance to the Queen remains in the oath.
Some, including adult Girl Guides leader Ann Charles, have heralded the youth organization's change, which has been described as one of the organization's biggest overhauls in its 102-year history. The youth group is the U.K. equivalent to the U.S.'s Girl Scouts organization.
Charles wrote in a recent Op-Ed for The Independent that she is pleased to see the oath changed, as she has previously felt uncomfortable pledging a "love of God" in order to be a member with the youth organization, especially because her religious views have changed since she first joined Girl Guides at the age of 10.
"What the new wording of our Promise does is help us be fully inclusive in a way we haven't been before. It is not a Promise which excludes those who have a religious faith. It is a Promise which allows an individual to work out what she believes for herself, and encourages her to question that belief as she grows and develops. It includes those of faith and those of none, and recognizes that, as we grow, our spiritual development may take us down different paths," Charles wrote for The Independent.
Others, however, have opposed the change, arguing that it serves as the beginning to a cruel secular totalitarianism unaccepting of religious freedom. Melanie Phillips, a journalist and author, argued in a Daily Mail Op-Ed that Christians in Britain must fight against the "secular bigots" in the country.
In her article, Phillips references the decision of a group of women in Harrogate, North Yorkshire to continue saying the old pledge referencing God and country. These women, given the nickname "rebel guides," also offered members the option of saying the new pledge, if they so desired, but nonetheless, Chief Guide Gill Slocombe urged these "rebel guides" to accept the organization's change, suggesting that they would be expelled from the youth group if they continued to recite the old oath.
"So much for diversity!" quipped Phillips in her Daily Mail Op-Ed. "For with this not-so-veiled threat, the true intention of the movement's leaders has been laid bare. A move they claimed to be more inclusive has turned out to be entirely the opposite."
"Indeed, it now stands revealed as being actively discriminatory, and far from pulling down any [mythical] barriers to joining the movement, the Guide leaders are actually putting them up," Phillips continued. "Under the spurious guise of encouraging membership by atheists, or [inexplicably] those with an aversion to serving their country, the Guides are now threatening to expel those who wish to express a religious belief."
"[…] this is why 'political correctness' is not remotely liberal at all, but viciously oppressive. It is simply a mechanism for re-ordering the world according to a particular dogma - and thus inescapably stifles all dissent," Phillips adds.
Christian leaders, including The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, have encouraged other Girl Guides leaders to follow the example of the "rebel guides" and allow their troop members to recite the old oath if they wish.
"If these people really do believe in diversity and this is not just a back door to secular totalitarianism, they should be supported in this," Nazir-Ali said in a statement.
Agnes Baden-Powell founded Girl Guides as part of the global Scouting movement in early 1900's, and the youth organization has since become a part of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, which boasts 30 million male and female membership. Britain's Boy Scouts organization is currently mulling over whether or not to follow in the footsteps of the Girl Guides and abandon God in their oath.