Girl Guides, Britain's version of the Girl Scouts, has removed "God" from its promise oath, causing Christian groups and churches in England to turn right around and remove the group's longtime meeting place... the church.
Religious leaders will no longer allow the 103-year-old Girl Guides organization to use their facilities as meeting places, finding that it would be "hypocritical" to allow them use when they have "abandoned" their "core beliefs."
"If the Guide promise does not mention God, I cannot see why they should be on Church premises," said Reverend Paul Williamson of St. George's Church in Feltham, Middlesex.
Instead of swearing allegiance to God in the promise oath, Girl Guides members will instead promise to be "true to myself." The oath is also swapping "country" allegiance language with a pledge to serve the "community." One sole chapter in Harrogate balked at the new oath, and said they'd be "sticking with the previous Promise."
"The Girl Guide Association does not realize what it's done," Williamson continued. "It has not thought through the consequences and has made itself look ridiculous."
Some might brand the church's decision to disallow Girl Guides chapters (except for the Harrogate chapter) from using their facilities as petty. But Reverend Brian Hunt said that churches let the group use their premises for free, adding, "I don't think, in fairness, that Girl Guides can expect churches to provide premises for free when they don't believe in God."
A spokeswoman for Girl Guides said that they didn't intend to be anti-church, but explained the change in oath language as an attempt to "unify all girls of all backgrounds and all circumstances," and that "updating the promise does not alter our continuing commitment to offer all girls a safe space where they can explore and develop their beliefs."
But the group's leadership doesn't seem too concerned about miffing church leaders and even bringing an end to a 50-year+ relationship. "If they [local churches] do not feel able to we will work with local volunteers to ensure a suitable alternative venue is found."
Secular groups have also criticized the church for banning the Girl Guides. National Secular Society campaigns manager Stephen Evans opined that there's "something deeply unpleasant and unchristian" about the situation.