No duty to God for 21st century Scouts

NEWS | Tess Holgate
Friday 4 December 2015

Scouts Australia is looking to change their Australian Scout Promise to exclude all references to God and the Queen, in an attempt to create a more inclusive movement.

The World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) requires members to make a promise inspired by the original promise devised by the founder of the movement, Lord Robert Baden-Powell in early 20th century Britain, which included Duty to God, Duty to Others, and Duty to Self.

But responding to feedback from members that suggested the language along with some of the key fundamentals of the promise are no longer relevant to Australian society, Scouts Australia is seeking feedback on new wording for the Promise.

The current Australian Scout Promise is:

On my honour
I promise that
I will do my best
To do my duty to my God
And to [optional: the Queen of] Australia
To help other people and
To live by the Scout Law.

In the new Promise, the phrase, “To do my duty to my God” would be replaced with “To be true to my spiritual beliefs,” in recognition that Australians have a broad range of spiritual beliefs.

WOSM says, “The purpose of the Scout Movement is to contribute to the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual potentials as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities.”

Chief Commissioner of Scouts Australia Chris Bates says that while Scouts Australia is not a religious organisation, “Scouting considers spiritual development to be a key part of developing individual character.”

This spiritual element is defined by WOSM as “a person’s relationship with the spiritual values of life, the fundamental belief in a force above mankind.”

Commissioner Bates says, “Scouts Australia’s current policy relating to spirituality recognises our members may have many forms of religion, and as part of our educational approach, we help young people to search for the spiritual values of life. Our programme looks for connections in nature and the world around us; the meaning in life’s experiences; and learning about and respecting different religions and belief systems.

“On the ground, this is primarily exhibited in personal and group reflections, and exploration to build an understanding of the beliefs of others.”

It is hoped that this program of spiritual development encourages members to know their own beliefs as well as respect the beliefs of others.

Commissioner Bates says that the organisation “reflects the diverse nature of our community. As the Australian community has changed, so has that of our membership; we have members from a variety of faith bases.”

In January 2014 Scouts UK introduced an alternate wording of their promise, allowing members to disavow their “duty to God,” and instead claim that they will “uphold our Scout values.”

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