LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Girl Guides have dropped a reference to God in their pledge.
Gone is the reference to loving God, replaced by a call to “be true to myself and develop my beliefs.” The new pledge unveiled Wednesday does retain a reference to serving the queen.
The long established British scouting organization — officially named Girlguiding — says some 44,000 people responded to a call for consultations on the new pledge.
Chief Guide Gill Slocombe says she hopes the change will encourage more girls to join.
“We knew that some people found our Promise confusing on this point and that it discouraged some girls and volunteers from joining us,” she said. “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.”
The pledge was last changed in 1994. The reference to God dates back to the founding of the Girl Guides in 1910. Earlier changes had been designed to make the pledge acceptable to people of many faiths, and now it has been changed in a way designed to keep non-religious girls (and their parents) from feeling excluded.
In another nod to changing times, the promise “to serve my queen and my country” has been altered to “serve the queen and my community.”
The National Secular Society, which had lobbied for removing the reference to religion from the pledge, welcomed the news.
Campaigns manager Stephen Evans said it was a “hugely positive and welcome development” that would make the organization more inclusive and relevant.
Girlguiding is part of the global scouting movement established by Robert Baden-Powell. The World Organization of the Scout Movement now claims more than 30 million male and female members in 161 countries.
There have been controversies in other countries as well. In 2010, Canada’s Girl Guides changed their promise from a pledge to be true “to myself, my God and Canada” — or the alternative “myself, my faith and Canada” — to “myself, my beliefs and Canada.”
In America, the Girl Scouts have been entangled in the culture wars as far back as the 1970s, when some conservatives became irked by the prominence of feminists such as Betty Friedan in the organization’s leadership.
In 1993, Christian conservatives were angered when the Girl Scouts formalized a policy allowing girls to substitute another word for “God” — such as Allah or Buddha — in the Girl Scout promise that reads: “On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country.”
Jill Lawless contributed to this report.