The Scout Association has been reported to the equality watchdog for allegedly discriminating against atheists by making them swear an oath to God.The intention would seem to be to deprive religious believers of the right to organise.
Ever since Lord Baden-Powell founded the 100-year-old organisation, the promise by scouts to do their duty to God and the Queen has been as much a part of their movement as jamborees, woggles and the three-fingered salute.
Now, however, it has become the latest target of secularists when the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association complained to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
They are furious that the Scout Association is refusing to scrap the pledge required of every new member, which they said was excluding "a growing number of children without belief".
Members in Britain, where there are nearly half a million scouts, have to promise to "do their best to do their duty to God and to the Queen", to help other people and to keep Scout law.
To accomodate the movement's 28 million members around the world, the words can be modified to encompass non-Christian faiths.
The Scout guidelines state: "The phrase 'to love God' and 'duty to God' implies belief in a supreme being and the acceptance of divine guidance and therefore the word 'God' can be replaced by 'Allah', 'my Dharma' or others as appropriate to suit the faith or religion of the individual concerned."
But the two secular bodies said in a joint letter to Derek Twine, the chief executive of the Scout Association, that the requirement for members to have a faith should now be made optional.
They said that the Association's stance was "completely unacceptable" for an organisation "that is so committed to personal development of young people and that claims to foster mutual understanding between different beliefs, which of course should include those of no belief."
I'm just waiting for the Secular Society to turn its guns on Alcholics Anonymous. The 12 Steps sound dangerously excluding of avowed atheists:
1 We admitted we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable.
2 Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3 Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4 Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5 Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6 Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7 Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8 Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9 Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10 Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11 Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12 Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.