My son was not allowed to join the scouts because he’s Atheist.

Are Atheists as bad as Paedophiles? Well, according to the British Scout Association, yes.

This screenshot below is from a website advertising for scout leader candidates. (Has since been changed because of my complaint).

Atheists not welcome


Of course, none of us would tolerate a paedophile as a scout leader or helper, that would be ridiculous. However, Atheists have been put in the same category as paedophiles which upsets me a little. I can think of much worse groups of people to rank on the same level as a paedo.

My wife and I are Atheist, we have two lovely children and I would describe ourselves as hard working, respectable, honest people with values and morals, just as religion teaches. I personally do not feel like I need religion in my life and have rejected it my whole life. I have nothing against religion, nor do I think anything less of anyone who embraces a faith. In fact, I have friends of many different religions, most of whom know where I stand on the subject and accept my stance fully. I just want to make clear that we are not “angry Atheists” nor are we anti-religion.

Our son asks us questions about religion from time to time as he attends a Church of England school. They teach the kids about all different types of religion which I think is great. When I was at school I also attended a Church of England school and Christianity was force fed to us on a daily basis which is probably what turned me off religion as kids tend to take parts of the bible, dissect it and then try and make sense of it. Lets face it, the bible is quite deep, even for adults! Although our son knows that we “Don’t believe”, we have never wanted to force our lack of belief onto him. We have always said that he can make his own mind up when he is old enough to make the decision for himself.

Anyway, our 5 year old son attended our local Beaver Scouts with his mum last week for the first time, with the intention of him joining the local group and attending weekly. He loved every minute of it as there were lots of kids there who are in his class at school so he settled in instantly. He loved it so much that he talked about nothing else for two whole days! Forms were filled in to secure him a place and everything looked good. There was nothing asking about our religious beliefs so we assumed that everything would be ok. My wife did ask about the Scout Promise as I mentioned to her how I used to have to say, “do my duty to God and the Queen” when I was in the Cubs. My wife did casually point out that both her and myself were Atheist, not thinking that it would be a problem.

Today we found out that our son is not welcome at Beavers because of our lack of religion. So, a five year old boy is denied a place because his parents are Atheist? I have never been so insulted or felt so discriminated against in my whole life and because the Scouts are a private organisation and receive no government funding, they do not fall under UK discrimination law. They could in fact say “No Muslims, No black people, No girls” etc.

I find it very hard to believe that this is allowed in this day and age.

After a couple of hours discussing this with my wife, we looked for a loophole, just for the sake of our son. Although being shunned like that, I don’t know why we bothered, maybe it was shock coupled with increasing anger!

Remember the 2001 UK Census? There was an internet campaign to get “Jedi” accepted as an officially recognised religion!  We enquired to see if our son would be accepted into the Beavers if his parents were practicing Jediism. Astonishingly, this would be fine and our son would be welcomed with open arms. This is despite them still knowing that we are Atheists.

I now know that this is not down to our local scout leaders but it is policy of the British Scout Association. It stinks and should be illegal. It may have been acceptable when the Scouts were formed as the UK was a much more religious country than it is now but come on, this is 2011, not 1911.


Some people wonder why some Atheists get angry about religion. I don’t fall into this category but today I actually did.

Now for the sweet irony to end with. It’s seems that the founder of the scout movement could be deemed as a paedophile himself these days.

“Baden-Powell, the founder of the scout movement, liked to look at photos of nude schoolboys with his friend, a schoolmaster and keen amateur snapper of his pupils. This seemed perfectly natural to them, part of the healthy outdoor life. Now they would get into serious trouble.
You may also have noticed that I use a capital “A” when I type Atheist. I am not sure if this is correct but I feel it deserves a capital A 🙂

Regards, Grumpy Git

5 Responses

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  1. Written by dominic
    on 24/03/2011 at 11:16 am

    I am astonished at this

  2. Written by Undercover Atheist
    on 26/03/2011 at 8:14 am

    It is my understanding that scouts, cubs etc. are ‘encouraged to develop their spiritual beliefs’ and are not barred by being atheists. There is however a clear statement in ‘Policy Organisation and Rules’ that ‘avowed absence of religious belief is a bar to leadership in the Scout movement’.

    I was a scout when in my teens and at that time did believe in God but I have since come to my senses. Four years ago I was aksed to take over the local Scout troop which was about to close because it had no leader. I looked into this question long and hard as I did not wish to lie or dissimulate but it is clear that there is no way round it for a leader. Religions such as ‘Jedi’ or ‘Humanist’ are not accepted by the Scouts; they are not that stupid.

    It seems to me that very few scouts actually have religious belief and the organisation encourages a low level dishonesty on this in both leaders and scouts. Most people just take the line that you say what you are asked to say and don’t make a fuss. Not really consistent with the promise and law, is it?

    I did not want the troop to fold over something so silly and I resolved the problem in two ways. Where I was required to make an entry on my application for ‘reliogion’ I put Quaker. I did attend Quaker meetings until a few years ago partly because they have no doctrines and certainly do not require a belief in God. The Scouts loved this ‘oh a Quaker! how nice; such lovely people’ I was asked at an interview whether Duty to God would present any difficulty for me. Fortunately the question was put in such a reticent and vague fashion that I could truthfully say no. That left the promise to do my duty to God. I spent a long time debating it with my fellow new leader (whose views were much the same as mine) as I did not want to lie. I have no objection at all to doing my duty to the Queen as I know her to exist and happen to think she’s a jolly good thing. In the end I came to the following conclusion; if I was required to swear to do my duty to Father Christmas I would have no difficulty. He is no more or less real than God and the tooth fairy, I have no duty to him so doing it just won’t take very long. On that basis I decided there is no lie involved. It would be a very different matter if I were required to swear that I did belive in him and I would not do that.
    Result, the troop still exists and has grown from 10 to 28, we occasionally engage in church parades which I regard as a pleasurable cultural relic which British people should know about, and I try not to openly disavow religious belief too loudly where sensitive ears are present. I fail miserably in my duty to try and develop the Scouts’ spiritual side.
    Your son should not be excluded from Beavers, this is contrary to POR and I’d suggest you telephone Gilwell Scout HQ for advice; they are very good at bringing clarity to the confusions created by local and over-zealous volunteers.

  3. Written by Grumpy Git
    on 04/12/2012 at 10:34 am

    Well, this subject is suddenly all over the press. It seems that an oath for atheists is being considered by the scout association.

  4. Written by Riani
    on 01/02/2019 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks share this article

  5. Written by zulhaq
    on 12/10/2020 at 10:37 am


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