British atheist boy scouts no longer have to promise to do their “duty to God,” thanks to a change to the 106-year-old pledge.
The British Association has decided to allow an alternative line in its U.K. version of Boy Scouts pledge for atheist members. Traditionally scouts hold up three fingers and say, “On my honor, 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.”
The alternate pledge changes the first line to “I promise that I will do my best to uphold our Scout values.”
While the pledge has had optional lines to include Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and non-U.K. citizens for about 50 years, this new alternate pledge still marks a huge moment for the group.
“Throughout its 106-year history the Movement has continued to evolve and today marks an important step in that journey,” Wayne Pulpitt, U.K. Chief Commissioner for The Scouts Association told NBC News.
This change follows the British Girl Guides’ decision in June to also remove the phrase “to love my God” from their own pledge. Girl Guides are now asked to “be true to myself and develop my beliefs.”
“This is a massive step forward,” the president of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson told NBC News. “It means that the Scout movement is at last open to everyone, and young people who don’t have a religious belief can join in good conscience.”
Rt. Revd. Paul Putler, a Church of England spokesman, said he was pleased that “God” is still a part of the pledge.
"I very much welcome this announcement by the Scout movement that God stays in the Promise,” he said. “In enabling people of all faiths and none to affirm their beliefs through an additional alternative promised the Scout movement has demonstrated that it is both possible, and I would argue preferable, to affirm the importance of spiritual life and not to restrict meaning to arbitrary self-definition.”
The new pledge will be available beginning in January 2014.
Sources: NBC News, MSN.com