frgavin on November 22nd, 2011

Robert Baden PowellBy Murray Wardrop, Telegraph

Children may be stopped from pledging their devotion to God when joining the Girl Guides following complaints that it discriminates against non-Christians.

Girls wanting to become Guides, Brownies or Rainbows currently promise to “love” God when signing up to the 101-year-old organisation.

However, the association is considering reviewing the wording of its affirmation for new members, to remove religious references.

The move comes after parents complained it was unfair to exclude children who had not received a Christian upbringing.

The promise is optional but only girls who have taken it can be awarded the movement’s highest badges.

Christian campaigners yesterday warned that the 600,000-member association risks losing its values if it abandons the religious element of the oath.

“It would be terribly sad,” said Mike Judge, spokesman for The Christian Institute.

“The Girl Guides has always embraced all people but has its roots in Christian values, which is what has made it so popular and successful.

“It will be very difficult for it to maintain its values if it removes the ethics from where those ideas spring from. It would change the character of the Guides for the worse.

“Sadly, I think this is symptomatic of a much wider problem in Britain, which stems from a culture of embarrassment about being Christian.”

Since its establishment by Robert Baden-Powell in 1910, the Girl Guides has asked youngsters to pledge their commitment to God.

The current wording states: “I promise that I will do my best, to love my God, to serve the Queen and my country, to help other people and to keep the Guide Law.”

Caroline Mason said her daughter felt unable to take part in her Brownies enrolment in north Somerset due to the religious content of the Promise.

“I am bringing up my children with strong morals, but no religious belief. This is our choice as parents and I do not understand why my daughter should be excluded from something because of it,” she told the association.

In a second complaint, Juliette and Barry Willett claimed their daughter Maddie had been excluded from a ceremony in Crawley Down, West Sussex.

The National Secular Society took up the cases and complained to the association.

In response Jo Hobbs, the association’s head of Guiding development, said: “On an issue as important as the expression of our core values, we must take a measured approach to ensure any decisions are right for our organisation.

“The issue is on the executive committee’s agenda and when the time is right we will review our approach.”

A Girlguiding UK spokeswoman said the association would consider reviewing the promise at a forthcoming meeting.

The Scout Association, which demands that members pledge their “duty to God and to the Queen”, said it had no plans to change its promise.

As a charity, the Guide Association has an exemption under the Equality Act which allows it to require its members to make a statement of belief.

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