Girls Guides, the U.K. version of Girl Scouts, recently removed the statement “be true to God” from their oath and replaced it with the secular statement “be true to myself.” Now churches, religious leaders, and Christian groups are threatening to ban the 103-year-old group from meeting in church halls.
“If the Guide promise does not mention God, I cannot see why they should be on church premises," Rev. Paul Williamson of St. George's Church in Feltham, Middlesex, told The Telegraph. “The Girl Guide Association does not realize what it’s done. It has not thought through the consequences and has made itself look ridiculous.”
Williamson is a former Scout leader and said most Guide groups don’t have the money to use school facilities and don’t have buildings of their own to use.
"It seems to me the Girl Guides are being doctrinaire, feminist and anti-church,” he added. “How can they expect, as a reputable charity organization, to go on using church premises whilst telling young girls that that cannot promise their duty to God?”
The Girl Guide Association recently replaced references to "God" and "country" with a pledge to "be true to myself" and serve the "community.”
A Girlguiding spokeswoman to The Telegraph that the changes were made to make the group more inclusive. She said it should “unify all girls of all backgrounds and all circumstances.”
All groups are expected to follow the new rules as of Sept. 1.
A Girl Guides group in Harrogate refused to comply and says it will still take an oath to God. They risk being expelled from the group.
Rev. Brian Hunt is the minister of the church where the Harrogate girls have met for about 50 years.
“My church allows the Guides to use my premises for free,” Hunt said. “And we do that because they’ve always tried to look after the whole person – body, mind and soul – and we encourage that. I don’t think, in fairness, that Girl Guides can expect churches to provide premises for free when they don’t believe in God.”
An unidentified spokesman for Christian Concern to The Telegraph that it’s not surprised churches are now unwilling to provide their premises, calling the removal of God from their oath a “slap in the face.”
“It puts the movement at odds with Christian belief as well as its original Christian ethos,” the spokesman said.
Girl Guides does not feel at odds with the Christian community.
“Updating the Promise does not alter our continuing commitment to offer all girls a safe space where they can explore and develop their beliefs,” the Girl Guide Association spokeswoman said. “We remain hugely appreciative of all the support churches give to guiding and hope they will continue to do so. If they do not feel able to we will work with local volunteers to ensure a suitable alternative venue is found.”