Atheist scouts told to “keep quiet” or lie about their beliefs


ATHEIST Scots youngsters are being told to “keep quiet” or lie about their beliefs in order to join the Scouts.

Droves of non-believers are signing up to local scouting groups across the country, despite having to pledge their allegiance to god.

Pledging to do your duty to god and queen are currently key requirements for all members of the Scouts, with a review on the wording currently under way.

 Robert Baden-Powell started the scouts in 1907.


Several humanists have admitted their children are in the Scouts, prompting calls for the Scout Association (SA) to adopt a more inclusive oath for atheists – as well as republicans.

Last week a mother from Thurso, Caithness, revealed her atheist son had been allowed to pledge allegiance to “my god” when he took his oath, revealing her son’s “god” was in fact Slash, rock guitarist from Guns N’ Roses.

A humanist parent from Aberdeenshire, who is the secretary of her local Scout troop, said her 12-year-old son swore the religious oath so he could join up with his friends, despite not believing in god.

She said he would retire from Scouts at 14 instead of taking the oath again in order to join Explorer Scouts.

The mother, who wished to remain anonymous, added: “It makes a mockery of the oath. He does not believe in God and realises that as a consequence he may not be able to stay in the Scouts unless he lies.”

The SA, which has more than 525,000 members in Britain does not officially accept atheists into its ranks.

Despite its refusal it is believed there are a significant number of non-believers in its ranks.

Last week, Graham Haddock, the movement’s chief commissioner in Scotland, said the organisation, is taking a “hard look” at the oath amid growing pressure from parents.

Mr Haddock, a paediatric surgeon at the Glasgow children’s hospital, said: “We are currently in the throes of a review. The first stage is complete and the issue for next summer is pretty much the oath — what we call the promise. It’s being considered at the present time.”


A recent survey conducted by The Humanist Society Scotland conducted a review of members on the issue and was told by one celebrant, whose husband was forced to resign from the Scouts as district commissioner, that “people are actively encourages to just ‘keep quiet’ about their beliefs in order to get in.”

Under current rules, Scouts must swear allegiance to God and the Queen, although foreign nationals living in Britain can swear allegiance to “the country in which I am now living”.

A spokesman for the SA said: “Young people will not be refused membership solely because of their parents’ beliefs or non-beliefs.

“Furthermore, scouting accepts that as they grow into independent adults, some young people may question or doubt the existence of God as they develop their personal spiritual understanding. Scouting believes that young people going through this process should be able to become or remain Scouts.”

The Scout movement started in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell and had more than 41,000 members in Scotland and a worldwide membership of 31 million.


  1. I’m a leader of a scout group and had to go through the same processes.
    I thought long and hard about which religion to place onto the form. Eventually, I went with Agnostic and was accepted. Slightly less inflammatory than athiest for the church elders that interviewed me.

  2. As a humanist, I was refused in my application to be a cub leader and as a result we have no cubs as nobody else has been stepping forward to train as a leader! There will be a similar situation happening with our Scout troop as our current leader is retiring. Making the job exclusive to only those of a belief in ‘higher being’ is excluding many able and enthusiastic prospective leaders who happen to be atheists. I attend our local Scout meetings most weeks as ‘helper’ and have still to come across a religious aspect to our meetings, which instead promote independence, out door skills and team work. We actively promote valuing each others’ views and opinions, so surely Scouting should move away from its promise devised in 1907 and be aware of the inclusive society we are all part of.

  3. I was kicked out of the Brownies when I was six for refusing to declare a god belief. That was in 1963.

  4. I’m in US. I delayed joining until I read the fine print of the 12th Scout Law: “A scout is Reverent” Fine print: “A scout is reverent to all to whom reverence is due.” As an atheist, I believe that no one person or idea deserves reverence, so I could not be reverent and still be a scout!

  5. Is there a scout badge for lying, or is that badge saved for the adults who request the lying. Good example to show children, lying and bigotism in the same breath.

  6. I’m currently going though the process of changing my role from Scout Network to Assistant Cub scout leader. I was never religious as a youth member but being atheist was never a problem (I believe under 18s are allowed to be atheist in scouts). I’d rather leave the organisation that I’ve been a part of for 14 years than lie about my religion but I’m afraid my cub section would close with out me. I’m not comfortable pretending I’m Christian.

    I also feel that this teaches the youth members that it is okay to exclude people because they don’t believe the same thing you do. This is unacceptable. I wonder what the leader will say to my Cubs if I had to leave.

    I’m writing “None” under religion and I’ll see what people say.

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