'I promise... to be true to myself and develop my beliefs': Girl Guides drop religious reference but pledge to self and the Queen

After 103 years, organisation changes oath to welcome 'all girls, of all faiths, and none'

For decades, Brownies and Girl Guides have promised to “love my God,” and “serve the Queen and my country”. But now, in a triumph for secularists, the organisation has decided to drop references to the deity – and the nation – from the oath taken by members.

The controversial change, one of the biggest in the organisation’s 103-year-history, was taken in an attempt to show the movement welcomed “all girls, of all faiths and none”.

However, the Guides decided to retain the pledge to serve their patron Queen Elizabeth II in the Promise. Anti-monarchy campaigners told The Independent that the organisation had “missed” an “opportunity” to truly open up the organisation.

From September, all new members over the age of seven who make the Girl Guide  Promise will pledge an oath to “be true to myself and develop my beliefs” and “to serve my Queen and my community.”

Girlguiding boasts more than half a million members, but it is the first time the promise has been changed since 1994. While the promise is optional, girls will not be able to secure the highest Guide badges without taking it.

Graham Smith, campaign manager for anti-monarchy group Republic, said: “It’s not appropriate to ask children to pledge allegiance to a head of state. You can’t be true to yourself and your conscience and pledge allegiance to one person; it contradicts itself.”

But Gill Slocombe, Chief Guide, said the new promise was decided after a consultation involving nearly 44,000 people. She said the religious reference sometimes “discouraged some girls and volunteers from joining” the organisation. “We hope that the new wording will help us reach out to girls and women who might not have considered guiding before – so that even more girls can benefit from everything guiding can offer.”

On the reference to the Queen, she added: “The results showed our respondents have a very strong commitment to retaining that aspect of the promise. There was a huge amount of support for that line to be kept in. The Queen is our patron and we are very proud and honoured to have her.”

The National Secular Society, who backed the review, said the “introduction of one secular promise for all is a hugely positive and welcome development.” But added that in their response to the consultation, they suggested that “to be fully inclusive this aspect should not contain any reference to the Monarch.”

The Church of England accepted the changes, but a spokesman for the Christian Concern campaign group said: “Taking ‘God’ out of the promise denies the history and foundations of the movement without offering anything in its place, with the result that the organisation will lose its distinctive ethos and end up meaning nothing.”

Guiding promise: In with the new…

The new promise

“I promise that I will do my best:

To be true to myself and develop my beliefs,

To serve the Queen and my community,

To help other people

And

To keep the (Brownie) Guide law.”

The old promise

“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.”

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