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Jun 20 2013

Another step forward for the godless

The Girl Guides of the UK (the equivalent of the USA’s Girl Scouts) no longer require their members to take an oath to “love God and serve the King/Queen.” Instead they will promise to “be true to myself and develop my beliefs” and “to serve my Queen (Elizabeth II) and my country.”

Some are pushing for the Guides to drop the Queen reference too, just like Australia did last year, where they now pledge to be true to themselves and their communities.

The Boy Scouts in the UK are also looking into their oath to god and will make a decision next month.

Somehow I cannot see the Boy and Girl Scouts in the US take such a similar step in the near future.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Tabby Lavalamp

    I wouldn’t be so sure about the American Girl Scouts. They’ve been miles ahead of the Boy Scouts when it comes to inclusivity for years.

  2. 2
    brucegee1962

    The problem in the US is that so many troops are sponsored by or at least meet in churches, as they are the most likely to provide meeting spaces for free. That gives them an inordinate influence.

  3. 3
    Marcus Ranum

    “to serve my Queen

    Christ, you’d have to boil that one a long time to tenderize her.

  4. 4
    jamessweet

    Tabby is not only right, ze doesn’t go far enough: GSA has been inclusive of non-believers for years. The default promise still talks about “serving God”, but non-believers (or polytheists, for that matter) have been allowed to substitute alternative wording since 1993 (i.e. for TWO DECADES)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl_Scouts_of_the_USA#.22To_Serve_God.22_in_the_Promise

    It’s BSA that will never change. GSA is great. In fact, my hope for the future is that GSA becomes co-ed and changes their name.

  5. 5
    Mano Singham

    I am really glad to hear this about the GSA and apologize for not being up to date on their progressive attitudes.

    I wonder what causes the big difference in attitudes between the BSA and GSA. It can’t be just gender, can it? Is it the history? Leadership?

  6. 6
    Pen

    I imagine it’s partly for non-believers since a considerable proportion of the British public is atheist, agnostic or secular. But it’s also for everyone whose religious beliefs don’t refer to that particular ‘God’ in any simple way.

  7. 7
    raven

    wikipedia US scout oath:

    On my honor I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country etc.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with this.

    My duty to god is the same as my duty to Thor, Hercules, Gandolf, The Green Lantern, or the Easter Bunny i.e. any imaginary being.

    It’s way less than the house goddess (the cat), who requires Friskies canned food and frequent door openings and closings

  8. 8
    raven

    Somehow I cannot see the Boy and Girl Scouts in the US take such a similar step in the near future.

    The girl scouts gave up being bigots decades ago.

    Hard to say when the BSA will give it up. They have declining membership and income and this matters. They have a lot of real estate that is expensive to maintain and a paid staff. Follow the money.

    It really serves no purpose, just irrelevant. The BSA is supposed to be an outdoors adventure group for kids. They also flat out claim that you can’t be a good person without being a believer. This is just factually wrong. You can be a good person and be a xian, but it is harder, a lot harder.

    I would favor making it local option. Then the churches could be bigots and the rest of us could get on with scouting.

  9. 9
    Cathy W

    I think the different organizational structure plays a part. Each Boy Scout troop has a “sponsoring organization” that provides facilities and funding. A lot of Boy Scout troops are sponsored by churches (especially Southern Baptist and Mormon – I’ve heard that all Mormon boys are expected to be Boy Scouts, although I can’t verify that), and the money talks.

    Girl Scouts aren’t tied to any outside group like that, so the national organization has a lot of power to set its own tone (up to a certain line) – and I know for years the tone they’ve wanted to set really is as radically feminist as people accuse them of being. Right now the policy is “every girl, everywhere”, end of story – last year there was a bit of a kerfluffle about a troop being ordered to accept a transgender girl, on the basis that “if she presents as a girl and her family says she’s a girl, then she’s a girl, regardless of genitalia.” After that, atheist girls don’t seem nearly as controversial. :)

  10. 10
    Mano Singham

    That’s interesting and plausible. My two daughters were girl scouts. I didn’t pay much attention to the organizational structure then but I don’t recall any religious aspect to it. The troop leaders were parents and the troop was not affiliated with any church or other organization and they used the public school which they all attended as their meeting place.

  11. 11
    jamessweet

    Another factor is tied to their founding. I recommend… oh god I forgot her name, the woman who did the Love, Joy, Feminism blog here for a while, before she moved to Patheos. She has a great 4-part series on the history of the BSA/GSA, that explains a lot about the differing attitudes. (I’d look it up and give you a link, but I really should do some work…)

    In brief: The BSA was founded with the idea that city life was “sissifying” young boys, and they needed to do more outdoors-y stuff so they’d be more rugged or something — i.e. a fundamentally conservative idea. The GSA was founded with the idea that girls were just as capable of doing outdoors-y stuff as boys — i.e. a fundamentally progressive idea. It’s in each organization’s DNA, so to speak.

  12. 12

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