Scouting launches consultation on considering welcoming atheists as full members

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UK Scouting has launched a survey to ask its members whether an alternative version of the Scout Promise should be developed for atheists and those unable to make the existing commitment.

Everyday Scouting is guided by a set of Fundamentals, which are expressed through the wording of our Promise and Law, plus our activity programme, policies and procedures. Today we have launched a survey asking for views on what impact these revised Fundamentals may have.

Reflecting on the revised Fundamentals

The revised Fundamentals were introduced through two articles, which appeared in the October/November and December/January issues of Scouting magazine. We've asked our members to read and reflect on these and, from today, to give feedback via a survey.

The survey asks whether the revisions mean we'll have to consider adapting other aspects of Scouting, and in particular whether we should introduce an alternative version of the Movement's Promise to accommodate young people and adults who do not have a faith. Doing this would enable the Movement to increase its diversity and embrace more communities than ever before.

Is there appetite for a new version of the Promise?

Alternative versions of the words 'Duty to God' have existed for faith groups such as Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists for more than 40 years, but this is the first time UK Scouting has consulted on an alternative version of the Promise for potential members who are atheists. Regardless of the outcome of the consultation, the existing Scout Promise will continue to be used.

As Wayne Bulpitt, UK Chief Commissioner, explains: 'We are a values-based Movement and exploring faith and religion will remain a key element of the Scouting programme. That will not change. However, throughout our 105-year history, we have continued to evolve so that we remain relevant to communities across the UK.'

He adds: 'We do that by regularly seeking the views of our members and we will use the information gathered by the consultation to help shape the future of Scouting for the coming years.'

The potential for an alternative Scout Promise has generated interest from the media. Derek Twine, Chief Executive of The Scout Association, writes in The Daily Telegraph (Tuesday 4 December).

Over the last seven years Scouting has experienced buoyant growth; membership numbers have increased from just under 445,000 in 2005 to over 525,000 this year. Since 2002, female membership has also increased by 69% and more than 50 Scout Groups have been opened that cater for young people from the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities. Not only is the Movement growing in these new areas but it is increasingly popular, attracting twice as many teenage members as it did a decade ago (from 18,500 in 2002 to 39,000 in 2012).

Take part in the survey

The online survey opens on 4 December and will remain open until 31 January 2013 to give people sufficient time to reflect. If they are unable to complete the survey online, a paper copy is available.

Further information can be found at scouts.org.uk/fundamentals. Non-members are also encouraged to complete the survey.

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