Air Cadets offer non-religious oath

Published 25 January 2013

Following a campaign sponsored by multiple humanist organisations, the Air Cadet Association has recently decided to offer nonbelievers an alternative oath that omits the mention of a higher power.

"British society is changing dramatically: over two-thirds of young people have a non-religious identity and that proportion is growing all the time. The institutions of our society need to catch up with this demographic fact if they are going to remain relevant and build cohesion between young people of different beliefs," said Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association [BHA].

Copson, whose group joined forces with the United Kingdom Armed Forces Humanist Association to push for the oath change, went on to add that the humanist organisation plans to pursue other youth organizations in Great Britain to make similar changes to their pledges.

The humanist groups argued that the Cadet Organisation would fall out of favour with the Ministry of Defense's policy on equality and diversity should it continue to force non-religious members to pledge their allegiance to God.

Originally, the oath of the Air Cadet Organisation, which is regarded as one of the largest youth organisations in the country with a 14,000-person membership for students ages 13-20, stated that each cadet promised "to be a good citizen and to do my duty to God and the Queen, my country and my flag".

This oath was usually delivered during an initiation ceremony presided over by the young cadet's presiding officer.

Now, non-religious members will be given the opportunity to make a non-religious oath to the organisation, which was founded prior to World War II and receives sponsorship from the Royal Air Force.

The Scout Association and Girlguiding UK are also considering formulating a non-religious oath, but not everyone is on board with the plan.

Andy Tilsley, a spokesman for Christ Church London, told the Guardian that he believes the change in oath raises broader questions in the country.

"Should we change the words of the national anthem because they include 'God save our gracious Queen'? What are people threatened by?" Tilsey questioned.

In December 2012, the Scout Association of Great Britain announced its plans to offer a new oath to atheist members so that they too may join the youth organisation.

"All bodies have to stay fresh and current, while remaining true to their founding principles," Derek Twine, chief executive of the Scout Association, previously wrote in a statement for The Telegraph.

Additionally, in early 2013 it was announced that Girlguiding UK, the largest voluntary youth organization for girls in the country, was also considering removing any mention of God from its oath.

In response, Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, a UK-based organization which seeks to introduce a Christian voice into the public sphere, argued that she believes Girlguiding UK should stay true to the principles it was founded on.

"I think it is a great sadness when you lose that ethos, you lose what you believe in and [the organisation] ends up meaning nothing. These organizations should be proud of their heritage, proud of their beliefs – it is what makes them special," Williams previously told the Guardian.

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