British Girl Guides may scrap oath to God, Queen

LONDON (AFP) - The Girl Guides, Britain's largest voluntary organisation for girls which is part of a 10 million-strong global movement, is considering scrapping its oath to God and the queen, it emerged on Saturday.

The British group, which boasts half a million members, opened a consultation this week suggesting amendments to the pledge known as "The Promise", saying that increasing numbers of its members "struggle with the wording".

"It is not about changing what we are but rather about changing how we express what we are," said Jo Hobbs, Girlguiding UK's head of development. She said the Guides still "really value" their relationship to Queen Elizabeth II, who was herself a guide when she was a girl.

But Hobbs said: "We do hear from both girls and adults that they struggle with some of the language in The Promise, and if that is creating barriers it is clearly something we need to consider. For us, having one clear Promise that everyone can sign up to with clear language that expresses the organisation's values is a real benefit."

The pledge, which was last updated in 1994, currently states: "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."

But the consultation suggests replacing the God part with a vow to "be true to my beliefs" or "serve the highest truth and love faithfully at all times".

The pledge to serve the queen could be replaced by a promise to "do my duty to my country" or "be responsible for my community", among others.

The Girl Guides Association was formed in 1910 under the leadership of Agnes Baden-Powell, the sister of Robert Baden-Powell who founded the Scouts, a voluntary organisation for boys, three years earlier.

Reports suggest that the Guides remain popular, with 50,000 girls waiting to join, and new chief executive Julie Bentley, a former campaigner for abortion rights, has described it as the "ultimate feminist organisation".

Girlguiding UK is part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, which boasts 10 million members in 144 countries, all sharing the same basic principles and values encouraging the self-development of young women.