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The additional alternative Scout Promise FAQs

  1. Why do we need an additional alternative Promise?

  2. Who can use the promise?

  3. Timing

  4. Monarchy and World approval

  5. Choice of promise

  6. Local use – filtering members by Promise and losing members

  7. Faith based Groups/sponsored Groups

  8. Other faiths

  9. How does this affect the programme for young people?

  10. Scouting events

  11. How does this affect training and the appointment of adults?






  1. Why do we need an additional alternative Promise?

    • Creating an additional alternative Promise for those with no faith feels divisive, not inclusive – shouldn’t the Scout Promise include all?

      The Scout Association has had multiple versions of the Promise for many years enabling young people and adults of all religions to take a Promise appropriate to them. In addition we have a version of the Promise suitable for foreign nationals living in the UK. We believe this approach is inclusive. Celebrating and understanding difference, including difference in faiths and beliefs, is an important aspect of the educational and development side of Scouting.

    • Is providing an alternative Promise just about being politically correct?

      This is not about political correctness. We revised our fundamentals and consulted on those revisions with our members. It is the response to that consultation which has informed the decision making here.

    • Are the results of the research that led to the introduction of this additional alternative Promise available for members to view?

      A summary of the research findings can be viewed here. 71% of the respondents felt an alternative Promise should be introduced. The consultation with members and non members was one part of the journey The Scout Association has taken to agree this change. The Scout Association consulted with the World Scout Committee, other faith leaders and The Scout Association’s own Board of Trustees to come to this decision.

    • Is The Scout Association selling out on its history to suit just a few people?

      No. We revised our fundamentals and consulted on those revisions with our members. It is the response to that consultation which has informed the decision making here.

    • Are we just following Girl Guiding with this change?

      No. The approach we have taken is different from Girl Guiding and it follows the revision of our fundamentals. The process of reviewing our fundamentals started in 2008 which included a consultation with members and non members.  It is the response to that consultation which has informed the decision making here to offer an additional alternative Promise to members of The Scout Association suitable for humanists and people with no affirmed faith, rather than change our Promise for everyone as Girl Guiding did.

    • Will other parts of the Promise be changing?

      The core Promise will not change at all. The additional alternative version of the Promise would just allow those of no faith to join, whilst linking to the values of Scouting, which are:

      Integrity - We act with integrity; we are honest, trustworthy and loyal.
      Respect - We have self-respect and respect for others.
      Care - We support others and take care of the world in which we live.
      Belief - We explore our faiths, beliefs and attitudes.
      Co-operation - We make a positive difference; we co-operate with others and make friends.

    • What will the wording of the alternative Promise be?

      On my honour I promise that I will do my best
      to uphold our Scout values,
      to do my duty to the Queen,
      to help other people and to keep the Scout Law.

      For Cub Scout section:

      I promise that I will do my best to uphold our Scout values, to do my duty to the Queen, to help other people and to keep the Cub Scout Law.

      For Beaver Scout section:

      I promise to do my best
      To be kind and helpful and to love our world.

    • If we’re changing the wording of the Promise are we also going to be changing the wording of the new Fundamentals?

      No. The Fundamentals of Scouting were recently revised to make them clearer and easier to understand.

    • Does the Outlander Promise provide a sufficient alternative for those members with no faith?

      The Outlander Promise was approved by The Scout Association in 1942. The wording was: ‘On my honour I promise that I will do my Best, to do my duty to God; and to the Country in which I am living, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Scout Law.’ The Promise recognised that some people living in the UK (predominately US servicemen at the time) would not wish to swear allegiance to the King. It did not cater for those people that did not have a religious belief.

  2. Who can use the promise?

    • Is the additional alternative Promise open to adult leaders to take as well as young people?

      Yes.

    • Would a non faith based Promise need to be taken in addition to the existing Scout Promise or as an alternative?

      Members who have no faith will be able to take this Promise as an alternative to the core Promise.

    • Do certain roles have to make the core Promise e.g. District Commissioner, County Commissioner, Regional Commissioner, national roles, Chief Scout?

      The Promise and the additional alternative apply to all members. Any member, no matter their role in Scouting, can choose which Promise is most appropriate for them to make.

  3. Timing

    • What is the expected timeline of introducing an additional alternative Promise into local Scouting?

      We are working to a 1 January 2014 implementation date for offering the additional alternative Promise to members.

    • Why couldn’t we do this more quickly?  Why has it taken since 2008 to do this?

      The Scout Association wanted to allow time to consult widely. In the first instance we consulted about the revised Fundamentals and once these were agreed we then allowed time to consider the implications of offering an additional alternative Promise. We then wanted to ensure we had the support of others such as the World Scout Committee, faith leaders and the British Humanist Association.

  4. Monarchy and World approval

    • Is there also going to be a version for those who would like to be involved in Scouting, support the Fundamentals, have a faith but do not feel they can support the monarchy – and do not place the Queen and their God side by side in terms of 'duty'?

      We have no plans to remove the duty to monarchy in our Promise. The Queen remains at the heart of the Movement and she continues to remain as our Patron. When we spoke about these matters with the Movement in small groups during the consultation, the Movement’s long terms relationship with the Royal family did not come up as an issue that warranted debate.

    • Has our patron (the Queen) been asked for her thoughts on the change? She is the Head of the Church of England, so is she still happy to be our patron with these changes?

      We have kept the Palace informed of the consultation process and the decision to introduce an additional alternative Promise. They are supportive of our endeavour to remain as relevant as possible to the young people of the United Kingdom.

    • Has The Scout Association had to gain approval from the World Organisation of the Scout Movement to make this change?

      Yes and the World Scout Committee has agreed to allow this change.

    • Will all Adults taking any of the various Promises be able to wear the World Scout Badge?

      Yes.

  5. Choice of promise

    • Who makes the decision about which Promise to take, parent or child? Will it be the same for every section?

      This is clearly a very sensitive decision and one, depending upon the age and maturity of the young person concerned, that may need to be discussed with the parents/carers. As with other decisions in Scouting, in the majority of cases the role of the Leader is to set out the options, explain the differences and encourage the young person and their parents/carers to discuss the options before making a decision. 

    • How does a child know if they believe in God or not? I need some practical guidance on this.

      This is clearly a very sensitive decision and one, depending upon the age and maturity of the young person concerned, that may need to be discussed with the parents/carers. As with other decisions in Scouting, in the majority of cases the role of the Leader is to set out the options, explain the differences and encourage the young person and their parents/carers to discuss the options before making a decision. 

    • What happens if someone changes their mind – can a young person who has previously taken the core Promise choose later to take the non-faith Promise (or vice versa)?

      Yes.

    • I usually make the core Promise, can I now make the alternative one?

      Yes.

    • Are we all going to use the alternative Promise and if not why not?

      The core Promise remains the same.  This is simply adding an additional alternative Promise to the other alternatives that we currently have – so that our members can choose the alternatives that are most appropriate for them.

    • Will all existing young people and adult members be offered to re-make their Promise, using the new additional version?

      It will be an option each time members are asked to renew their Promise.

    • Section/age-specific guidance is needed about how to broach discussions on the Promise and beliefs, and clear guidance as to the interaction Leaders are expected to have with parents with regard to this. In particular, who makes the final decision on which Promise is taken, the parent or the young person?

      This is being developed within our programme materials but is clearly a sensitive matter which, depending upon the age and maturity of the young person concerned, may need to be discussed with the parents/carers before a decision is reached.

    • Are all prospective members, adults and young people, to be formally offered a choice of which Promise to make or is the alternative Promise to be offered 'on request' only?

      As part of the discussions had with anyone who is preparing to become a member of The Scout Association, the options of Promise available should be made clear so the most appropriate one is chosen for that individual.

  6. Local use – filtering members by Promise and losing members

    • What discretion will Executive Committees have over the implementation of this policy?

      None.

    • Can I demand that a particular Promise is made?

      Only for the Promise you want to take as an individual. Members cannot make any requests or demands of the Promise that anyone else makes (whether a young person or an adult).

    • The effect of this change is likely to make our waiting lists get longer. Will we be allowed to apply a filter based on acceptance of a faith?

      No.  In the same way as the use of 'filters' based on other discriminatory factors is not acceptable it will not be acceptable to use this as a reason to move a young person down the joining list.

    • Can I prioritise my waiting list for those who wish to take the core Promise?

      No.

    • Having introduced the alternative Promise, will it be illegal under Equal Opportunities legislation to bar someone if they want to take the alternative Promise?

      Having introduced the alternative Promise, questions regarding equality legislation should not arise. Membership will be available for those taking either the core or one of the additional alternative Promises The Scout Association offers on equal basis and to deny membership to either would be against the rules of the Association.

    • How should I respond to leaders who are no longer happy to continue volunteering due to this change?

      Clearly it would be a great shame if we lost an adult volunteer due to this change especially in light of the public support we have received from key UK faith leaders and others, but we are nationally removing a barrier to membership and that approach needs to be consistent across Scouting in the UK.

    • By allowing this alternative are we going to lose more members than gain them?

      Judging by the significant support in the consultation we believe that this will make Scouting more accessible and it will contribute to the growth of our membership by being able to welcome those new volunteers and young people who previously felt they were not able to take any of the existing options of Scout Promise.

  7. Faith based Groups/sponsored Groups

    • If there are members who have no religious beliefs will this not cause an issue for those Groups who are either sponsored or meet within premises linked with a religion e.g. church halls?

      We are delighted to have the full support of faith leaders and we do not anticipate this being an issue at all.

    • Can sponsored Groups choose to only allow people to take the appropriate faith-based Promise?

      No. All members within any Group must be offered the alternative options of Promise available.

    • Will Groups sponsored by faith organisations be allowed to refuse to accept members of no faith?  

      It is possible for sponsored Groups to operate a restricted recruitment policy (agreed formally with the District Executive).  Whilst this may, in the case of faith Groups, be linked to membership of that faith community, it would still not be appropriate for them to only offer the core Promise.  See Member Resources for more information on Sponsored Groups and rule 3.14 in POR.

    • The church we are sponsored by wants us to use the core Promise rather than offer an option. Can we do this?

      All members within any Group must be offered the alternative options of Promise available.

    • Are there clear guidelines on the responsibilities of executive committees, particularly of sponsored Groups, on their remit?

      More information can be found in the guidelines for sponsored Groups.

  8. Other faiths

    • Does this change mean we will accept any belief into Scouting, even Satanists?

      We would find it unlikely that someone who truly identified as a Satanist would be able to honestly sign up to the values of Scouting.

    • Will certain faith Groups still be considered unsuitable, e.g. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or certain Pagan faiths?

      Anyone can be a member of The Scout Association providing they take a variation of the Promise and uphold the values of being a Scout as detailed in our Fundamentals.

    • What should agnostics do?

      This is a matter of personal conscience and should be the subject of a discussion with the person concerned.  For a young person, depending on their age and maturity, this discussion might also involve their parents/carers.

    • How will this affect Scouts from non-Christian faiths? Is there a Promise to suit their needs?

      Scouting has offered alternatives to the core Promise for many years. More information can be found on how this is supported here.

  9. How does this affect the programme for young people?

    • What are the adjustments to the programme?

      There are many resources and elements to the programme that are now being updated and revised to ensure it reflects the introductions of an additional alternative Promise and how faith is explored and handled within Scouting activities. This work is ongoing and we will have some support ready for 1 January 2014, but not all resources will be up to date at once and we will take a rolling review process to bring everything in line.

    • Does this move towards providing an additional alternative Promise for those Scouts without faith mean Scouting will no longer support young people in exploring faith and their spiritual side?

      The Fundamentals of Scouting were recently revised to make them clearer and easier to understand. It was this revision which prompted us to consult on a range of issues including whether we needed to look at adding an additional version of the promise to enable those without faith to make a promise and join Scouting. We are absolutely clear that whatever a young person’s faith that they should be encouraged and given opportunities to explore faiths, belief and attitudes and to share in spiritual reflection. Exploring faith and belief remains a very important part of our programme with young people.

    • Will other parts of the programme and training for leaders be adapted to remove current requirements that have religious links?

      All training and programme material is now being reviewed accordingly to ensure it is inclusive to all members.

    • Have you got any suggestions for end of meetings prayers/meditations?

      A variety of reflections are available. View more support on faith and spiritual development here. We will be reviewing the support materials available to ensure it is inclusive to all members.

    • Will Promise Ceremonies differ or need to change? Are different versions of the Promise said all together?

      There will be no changes to Promise Ceremonies, it has been good practice for many years to invite members to renew their Promise 'in their own words' and this should continue. The different versions of the Promise can then all be said together at Promise renewal events etc.

    • If the parents are adamant that their child does not believe in God, what assurances are we able to give/should we give that there will be no level of worship that their child will be forced to listen to?

      Spiritual reflection remains an important part of Scouting, but this is different to an act of worship of a God.  You can find some guidance here.

    • Will Leaders now need to ‘teach’ atheism within the context of ‘exploring faith, beliefs and attitudes’?

      Scouting is not about ‘teaching’ religion, however it does encourage and enable young people to explore faith, beliefs and attitudes. This is in Scouting’s five principles of spiritual reflection, which are:
      1.    To develop an inner discipline and training
      2.    To be involved in corporate activities
      3.    To understand the natural world around them
      4.    To help to create a more tolerant and caring society
      5.    To discover the need for spiritual reflection

  10. Scouting events

    • Scouting events such as St George’s Day parades/service are often held in a place of worship and it is an occasion when all Scouts are encouraged to attend – how are such events to be dealt with in the future?

      For some time we have been encouraging flexibility in the style of service and venue used for this occasion to ensure it can be inclusive to all members.

    • St George's Day services/events are often held in religious buildings – is there formal guidance on how to put together a St George's Day event with no overriding faith bias?

      We have published this guidance for some years now and it can be found here.

    • What Promise do you say at St George’s Day? If multiple Promises are available which order are they to be said in?

      Members will say their Promise all at the same time.  It is likely that an event like this Members are already using differing versions of the Promise.

    • The key issue for implementation will be the guidance for members on the use of prayers (which tend to be Christian in the majority of Groups) at all sorts of events.

      Spiritual reflection remains an important part of Scouting and there is already a great deal of material and guidance available to help develop appropriate moments of spiritual reflection.

  11. How does this affect training and the appointment of adults?

    • Is there any support on how to include humanists and people of no affirmed faith into Scouting in a welcoming way? I am concerned about some of my Group opposing this change and need help explaining how our programme will work going forward to respect those who believe and those who do not.

      Additional support for members is being developed to help implement this change into everyday Scouting.

    • When will updated resources/training materials with revised wording be available?

      Some initial guidance will be available in January 2014 with other resources and materials being updated over the following year.

    • We need to carefully consider the guidance given to Appointments Advisory Committees (AAC) in relation to meeting those with no faith.

      Some initial guidance will be available in January 2014 with other resources and materials being updated over the following year.

    • Should the Appointments Advisory Committee ask about religion at interview?

      No, AACs should not ask about an individual’s religion – however they should ask about the applicants’ approach to helping young people develop spiritually and explore faith, beliefs and attitudes.

    • The AAC is a sub-committee of the Executive Committee. Will this impact on their work, and will the decisions execs make about implementation impact on the appointment process?

      Executive Committees have no decisions to make about the implementation of the alternative Promise. AACs will need to amend their approach to interviews (based upon the guidance that will be issued). We believe this will make it easier for ACCs and assist with the recruitment of adults as faith should no longer be a barrier to new volunteers who wish to join Scouting.

    • Managers and AACs may also need some additional information on how to deal with candidates who are of no affirmed faith, or represent ‘less traditional’ faiths and beliefs.

      Some initial guidance will be available in January 2014 with other resources and materials being updated over the following year.

    • How should Appointment Secretaries deal with applicants who say they have no affirmed faith on their AA form before 1 January 2014?

      The additional alternative Promise will only be available from 1 January 2014 and until that date the current appointment arrangements apply.

      In the circumstances described, the AAC may decide to postpone the decision until 2014, alternatively they may decide that a Section Assistant role (for which making the Promise is not a requirement) might be appropriate in the intervening period, with a change of role being considered in 2014. (The AAC may decide that such a change of appointment may be carried out without re-interviewing the applicant.)

    • How will this impact on the role of Group/District/County chaplains?

      They continue to have the same role and responsibilities as before, for some they may help explore faith, beliefs and attitudes with local Groups and Districts.

    • Will adults who say the alternative Promise require extra training to look at how they can help young people develop their understanding of faith?

      All leaders require training to understand how to explore faith, beliefs and attitudes with young people.

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