The possibility that the Scout Association may soon allow non-believers to take an alternate oath that excludes the word "God" is causing controversy in the U.K. Responding to the criticism, Wayne Bulpitt, chief commissioner of Scouts U.K., said the organization is "a values-based movement" and that "exploring faith and religion will remain a key element of the Scouting programme.”
But a Daily Telegraph blog post took issue with Bulpitt's choice of words: "Lovely turn of phrase, Wayne! I adore that 'values-based,' 'exploring' and 'key element,'" Telegraph blogger and priest Peter Mullen wrote. "[T]he original boy scouts were not anything so woolly as 'values-based', which might mean anything from ancestor worship to declaring paid-up membership of the Amalgamated Coven of Tree-Huggers: they were founded as a Christian organisation."
According to the organizations's website, the U.K. Scouts were founded in 1910 with the mission "to promote the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potential."
Billy Hallowell, Faith Editor at The Blaze, and Dan Barker, a minister-turned atheist and co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) -- whose son was turned away from joining the U.S. scouts for being a non-believer -- joined HuffPost Live's Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani Wednesday to discuss the matter.
There's been talk of the issue with stateside Scouts as well. In 2000, the FFRF responded to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Boy Scouts of America "is a private group which can exclude anybody it likes from membership" by saying "it is time to start treating Boy Scouts as the bigoted and discriminatory organization that it is."
The FFRF also pointed out that a "major source of BSA funding is United Way of America, which announces that "every group receiving funds ... maintains a policy of nondiscrimination."
According to the Guardian, the U.K. Scouts have had oath options for alternate faiths and countrymen for nearly half a century, "Allah for Muslims or "my Dharma" for Buddhists" and that scouts in other countries "promise duty to their own nation or monarch." The paper notes that while these alternate options have been in place, "there has been no non-religious equivalent for either Scouts or Guides, meaning young atheists have had to either "fudge the promise or forgo the woggle."
Young atheist boys have been turned away by the Scouts, including an 11-year-old schoolboy named George Pratt. "I am really disappointed about not being able to go anymore just because I don't believe in God," Pratt told the Telegraph. "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," he added.
Watch the full segment on HuffPost Live.