A Scout’s Tale

Local scout leader argues that exclusion of an atheist is against the principals of the movement as exemplified by one of the first ever troops formed in Chiswick nearly a century ago

The fate of, Darrel Lambert, a boy Scout in Port Orchard, Seattle who was excluded from his troop for being an atheist has angered both local Scout leaders and atheists. His story prompted a local resident to write to the Boy Scouts of America National Council to complain. On reading this letter, the former Group Scout Leader of 1st Chiswick (currently not operating due to lack of leaders) recounted this interesting tale….

One of the oldest Scout troops in the world was founded here in Chiswick in April 1908 by Harold Price. Originally Scout troops were founded by children who had bought Baden-Powells ‘Scouting for Boys’ and decided to start their own group. Only later did adults get involved, so Baden Powell was technically never the founder, the boys were.

Harold Price was a member of Chiswick Free Church and when the Troop became too big for him to manage on his own, he sought an HQ.

He was offered the Church Hall, but only on condition that the boys all became members of the church. Since his friends at that time included a Jew, a Muslim, boys of various Christian denominations and mostly boys of no religion at all, he realised that taking up the church’s offer would restrict who could join the Scouts.

Knowing that Baden Powell would never have approved of that (because he said that Scouting held no brief for one set of beliefs over another), he refused the church’s offer and declared that the Group must always be independent of any church in order to be open to all.

This policy is written in stone in the group and it has always been open to all faiths and none, although boys are asked to make the duty to God part of the promise, which few object to.

Today there is an ongoing campaign to change the Scouts’ policy in the UK to introduce an option that would make duty to God non-compulsory.

January 15, 2003

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