Girlguiding UK, a British scouting organization, has “modernized” its pledge—and loving God did not make the cut.
The pledge has referenced God since the organization began in 1910. The group last changed the promise in 1994 when “duty to God” became “to love my God,” according to the BBC. Other changes attempted to make the pledge acceptable to people of many faiths. Now the organization has changed it once again to keep girls and parents with no faith at all from feeling excluded.
Instead of orienting around God, the girls now promise to “be true to myself and develop my beliefs.”
Chief Guide Gill Slocombe says she hopes the change will encourage more girls to join, because some people found the promise “confusing.” Slocombe was concerned it kept some girls from joining the organization: “We hope that the new wording will help us reach out to girls and women who might not have considered guiding before—so that even more girls can benefit from everything guiding can offer.”
Around 44,000 people responded to a call for consultations on the new pledge, according to Girlguiding.
The National Secular Society hailed the decision as a “hugely positive and welcome development” that would make the organization more relevant. The secular group had lobbied for such a change.
“By omitting any explicit mention of God or religion the Guide Association has grasped the opportunity to make itself truly inclusive and relevant to the reality of 21st century Britain,” Stephen Evans, campaigns manager at the National Secular Society told the BBC.
The organization deemed pledging to serve the queen still relevant, apparently, though girls no longer promise to “serve my queen and country,” instead pledging to “serve my queen and community.”
Girlguiding is part of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, which claims more than 30 million male and female members in 161 countries.
The Church of England and other organizations urged Girlguiding to keep the old pledge, according to the BBC. Chances are the movements founder, Robert Baden-Powell, would have defended the phrase too.
U.S. Scouting Service Project quoted Baden-Powell on its website, saying that religion is not only relevant, but “essential to happiness.” His view is a far cry from the new pledge to be true only to oneself.
“This is not a mere matter of going to church, knowing Bible history, or understanding theology,” Baden-Powell said. “Religion … means recognizing who and what is God, secondly, making the best of the life that He has given one, and doing what He wants of us.”