Christian Girl Guide leaders agree to use non-religious oath amid pressure from secularists
A group of Christian Girl Guide leaders, who refused to remove references to "God" from their promise, have said they will use the movement's new oath after facing pressure to accept the change from an atheist volunteer and the National Secular Society (NSS).
The leaders, from Harrogate, New Yorkshire expressed dismay that the promise to “love my God” had been removed from the Girlguiding oath, and said they would encourage their members and leaders to continue using the traditional pledge when meeting in their church groups.
But Jem Henderson (28), an atheist voluntary leader backed by the NSS, accused the group of forcing her to take the original pledge, arguing that their actions were "discriminatory" against her and "any atheist in the group already."
A spokeswoman for Girlguiding later confirmed that all leaders would be required to use the new non-religious oath, and indicated that the Harrogate leaders could face expulsion from the movement if they refused to comply.
A meeting was subsequently held between Senior Girlguiding figures and the Harrogate group, after which it reportedly agreed to use the new oath once it comes into effect on 1st September.
Gill Slocombe, the Chief Guide, commented that the organisation had spent “some time talking with the Harrogate volunteers about the new promise and supporting them to understand that it’s intended to embrace all girls, those with a faith or belief, and those without”. She added that the Harrogate troops had agreed to use the new oath “as a result” of the discussions.
Following the decision, Ms Henderson said: “All I wanted out of it was for the troops to take the secular promise.”
"Capable of turning the other cheek"
Commenting on whether she was expecting to face difficulties when working with the Harrogate group in the future, she added: “I think it will be fine. I mean, they’re Christians, therefore they’re capable of turning the other cheek.”
Girl Guiding UK admitted that it has received over 800 complaints about the new oath, which replaces the promise to “love my God" with a pledge “to be true to myself” and “develop my beliefs”.