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Great Britain's Girl Scouts Equivalent Drops Oath to God

Great Britain's Girl Guides, the English equivalent to the Girl Scouts of the USA, announced recently that it has dropped the reference "to love God and country" from its membership pledge in order to attract more youth, including those who identify as atheists.

The youth organization, which was founded in 1909, reportedly made the decision to drop the God reference from its pledge after receiving responses from 44,000 members and nonmembers during a consultation period, according to the organization's official website.

"We knew that some people found our Promise confusing on this point and that it discouraged some girls and volunteers from joining us," said the organization's chief guide, Gill Slocombe, in a statement .

"We hope that 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."

The chief guide also told The Telegraph that she does not necessarily see the change in pledge as a "radical" movement on behalf of the girls organization.

"I don't know whether it is radical, I just think it is fantastic that our members have come up with a promise that they feel they can confidently say and feel that they can keep," Slocombe told the newspaper.

The new promise drafted by the Girl Guides no longer pledges allegiance to the country or God, but maintains allegiance to the Queen of England, who is the organization's patron.

"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," the new pledge reads.

The youth organization's decision has been hailed by secularist groups as "progressive," while Christian groups in the country argue that the change goes against the values of the youth organization.

"We wholeheartedly welcome the progressive step that Girlguiding have taken today of making their movement genuinely open to all, including the large number of girls and young women who don't believe in any God," Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, told The Huffington Post UK.

Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, told The Telegraph that she believes omitting "God" and "country" from the pledge contradicts the purpose of the Girl Guides, which is to instill an allegiance to one's community and a sense of unity.

"It sounds like jargon from a consumerist self-help manual completely at odds with the true ethos of the Guiding organization which was set up to encourage belief in God and a corporate identity, not about individualism but to understand what it really is to be part of a community," Williams told the newspaper.

The Boy Scouts in Britain announced in December that they are also holding a consultation to determine whether to alter their pledge to possibly omit an allegiance to God; a decision is expected to be reached next month.

The National Secular Society petitioned both the Girl Guides and the Boy Scouts in Great Britain to drop their God pledge.

Robert Baden-Powell, a lieutenant-general in the British Army, founded the Scouting movement in the U.K. in the early 1900s, and his sister, Agnes Baden-Powell, founded Girl Guides as part of the global Scouting movement in 1909.

The grassroots youth organization has now grown into the World Organization of the Scout Movement with 30 million male and female members, according to The Associated Press.

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