Banned from Scouts for being Honest

It is all over the news today, George Pratt (pictured) is an 11-year old who wanted to join the scouts but has been refused membership … the Telegraph explains

An 11-year-old boy has been banned from joining the Scouts because he doesn’t believe in God, despite his Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist peers being offered an alternative oath to swear.

Schoolboy George Pratt had attended his local Scout group for ten months, and was expecting to invest in the group along with his friends.

But, after being required to swear the traditional promise, he found himself unable to join as he does not believe in God.

George, 11, said he was “very disappointed” in the decision, calling it “very unfair” and claiming he feels left out from experiences and trips his friends are attending.

His father Nick Pratt, 45, has accused the Scout movement of being “narrow minded” and “intolerant”, saying his son is being “excluded because he doesn’t believe”.

To become a full member of the 1st Midsomer Norton Group in Somerset, which meets in a hall opposite his home, George must take the Scout Promise.

If you just happen to be wondering what this oath is, well here you go …

“On my honour, I promise that I will do my best, To do my duty to God and to the Queen, To help other people, And to keep the Scout Law.”

What is truly bizarre about this is that the above oath is not in any way sacred or (if you will forgive the metaphor) carved in stone, and has often been changed to accommodate other beliefs. The Telegraph article notes that the word “God” is quite happily removed and replaced with alternatives for other beliefs, so why no alternative for non-belief, what deems non-belief to be a truly special class that merits exclusion?

I was once a scout myself and made a similar oath when I joined. At the time it had no real meaning for me personally and if they had asked for an oath to Zeus, I’d have quite happily done so. In fact, the  oath I had was not the one above, because I grew up in Ireland (a Republic) they had dropped the reference to the Queen. What is truly commendable here is that George has some principles, integrity and honesty and so he refuses to swear an oath to something he does not believe in, so it is more than a bit odd to find the scout movement rejecting those who hold such principles.

Here is the response to all this:

A spokesman for the Scout Movement has insisted all young members are required to make the Scout Promise, recognising their duty to a God relevant to their faith.

Despite admitting he is “really disappointed” at the strict rule, George has pledged he will not change his decision.

“I am really disappointed about not being able to go anymore just because I don’t believe in God,” he said.

“We have spoken about it with the Scout Leader but he won’t change his decision, it is very unfair.

“My friends who are Scouts don’t think it is right, either. Everyone is going caving soon and I’ve never been before. It is something I would love to do but I’m not allowed.

“I’m not going to change my decision though.”

This is perhaps a first for the UK. In the US the Scouts have taken a hard line and banned non-believers, and because of this have faced a lot of criticism. It would appear that the UK scouting movement is now heading in the same direction. They attempted to sidestep the issue with a bit of wiggle room and permit its younger members to be “searching” for a faith, allowing them to question the meaning of the promise under the direction of their section leader, but that is not tolerance, it is just a bit of word play and rapidly falls apart when George turns up to explain that there is no god, and he is not interested in “searching”.

So there you have it then, you have to believe in superstitious nonsense if you want to be a scout, any will do, but those who embrace rationality and have enough integrity to be honest about it are barred. Those in the movement have sworn an oath “To help other people“, but now we know that this does not apply to those that don’t believe in magical supernatural entities.

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