The Scout Association is considering adopting a new “atheist” promise for the first time in its 105-year history.
Currently, in order to join the Scouts youngsters must pledge: “On my honour, 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.”
And the Guides are also thinking of rewriting their promise to love God and serve the Queen.
The consultation on an “atheist” promise comes in stark contrast to the views of the movement’s founder, Lord Baden-Powell.
He ranked atheism alongside gambling, swearing and drunkenness in a handbook for boys.
More than 100 years ago, Lord Baden-Powell wrote “Rovering for Success”, in which he said: “If you are really to make your way to success – ie happiness – you must not only avoid being sucked in by irreligious humbugs, but you must have a religious basis to your life”.
Derek Twine, Chief Executive of The Scout Association, said the Scouts must “stay true” to their fundamentals, whilst staying in touch with the communities from which they draw their membership.
He added that it is important not to “force through” a change.
He said: “Clearly we must listen to our members, to other interested parties, including the churches and other bodies, to understand how 21st-century British society feels about the fact that many feel excluded.”
The Scouts already offer non-Christian promises for children of other faiths.
The Guides’ consultation on their promise closes in March next year.
At the moment, girls can become guides without making the promise, but they cannot receive the highest award for members or be an adult leader of a Brownie or Guide unit.
Their consultation comes just a month after Julie Bentley, a leading campaigner for abortion and former head of the Family Planning Association, took over as chief executive.
However, Girlguiding UK say plans to rewrite the promise were in place before she filled the role.
The National Secular Society has put pressure on the Scouts to introduce a pledge for non-believers.
Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said the consultation is “a move in the right direction”.