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Baden-Powell on Religion in Scouting

What is the WOSM position on God and Religion in Scouting?

Date: 26 Dec 1999

The World Organization of the Scout Movement is an international, non-governmental organization composed of its recognized national Scout organizations. Its governing body is the World Conference, which meets every three years, and its executive is the World Committee composed of elected volunteers.

The World Organization of the Scout Movement has issued a number of publications which summerize the principles of the WOSM and the place of Duty to God in the movement.

Fore more information on who the WOSM is see:

"The principles of Scouting, or values it stands for, are normally summarized in three categories: Duty to God a persons relationship with the spiritual values of life, the fundamental belief in a force above mankind. Duty to others a persons relationship with, and responsibility within, society in the broadest sense of the term: his or her family, local community, country and the world at large, as well as respect for others and for the natural world. Duty to self a persons responsibility to develop his or her own potential, to the best of that persons ability. What is important to underline here is the exact function of the principles, or values, within Scouting. At the level of the Movement as a whole, they represent Scoutings vision of society, the ideals it stands for and the image it projects. For anyone joining the Movement, the principles represent those elements which each individual must be open to accept and must be willing to do his or her best to follow. This initial acceptance does not, and certainly cannot in the case of young people, imply in any way an understanding of the full significance of these values; this can only be acquired through membership of the Movement over a period of time. By contrast, a rejection by an individual of these principles disqualifies him or her from membership of the Movement, which is open to all provided they agree with its purpose, principles and method. Once a young person has expressed his or her initial acceptance of these principles, through making the promise, the whole educational process within Scouting consists in enabling the young person to gradually understand these values, adhere to them and make them his or her own so that they permeate the person's behaviour throughout life. In the Founders words Self-education, that is, what a boy learns for himself, is what is going to stick by him and guide him later on in life, far more than anything that is imposed upon him through instruction by a teacher.


In return, the Scout Movement requires a commitment from the individual member a commitment, first and foremost, to respect and act according to the fundamental principles of the Movement: duty to God, duty to others and duty to self. This commitment is made through making the Scout promise, which is the public expression of the willingness to do ones best to adhere to a code of living based on these ideals. This voluntary commitment to the Scout Movement extends also to achieving the educational purpose of Scouting. This applies to youth members, insofar as their own personal development is concerned; indeed the voluntary commitment is an essential component of Scoutings educational process, influencing motivation and personal attitude, being in control of ones own personal development, setting personal objectives, self-drive, etc. ... Adults in the Movement must also be committed to Scoutings purpose, principles and method, as their role is to help youth members, directly or indirectly, to achieve their full potentials. This leads to a strong sense of shared responsibility and partner-ship among all members of the Movement: youth and adult, volunteer and professional.

Also implicit in the fact that becoming a member of the Scout Movement is a voluntary act is the recognition that what the Movement offers to young people its educational proposal is not suited to everyone. Thus, not all young people are potential members of the Scout Movement; there are those who, for whatever reason, will never be attracted to it or find it possible to adhere to its fundamental principles. What is critical, however, is that the Scout Movement offers the possibility to join, to all those who wish to, and does not construct barriers to membership that are based on factors other than the fundamentals of the Movement.


It is important to note that what protects the Movement when it is threatened by outside forces is the fact that its nature and specific identity are internationally defined and agreed upon by all Scout associations. For example, challenges to the Movements fundamental principles in any particular country can be defended on the basis of conditions of membership of the World Movement.

From: "The Essential Characteristics of Scouting", World Scout Bureau, 1998.

Also see: "Scouting in Practice: Ideas for Scout Leaders", World Scout Bureau, 1996 (revised 1997).

"Scouting: An Educational System", World Scout Bureau, 1998.

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