The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the decision of the Air Cadet Organisation (ACO) this week to provide a non-religious oath for Air Training Corps cadets, following representations from the BHA and United Kingdom Armed Forces Humanist Association (UKAFHA).
The news comes as two of the UK’s largest youth organisations – the Scout Association and Girlguiding UK are also consulting on making their promises inclusive of non-religious young people who don’t believe in gods.
Currently, cadets only have the option to make the religious promise, usually at a ceremony presided over by the Unit Padre or Officer Commanding, that “I, Cadet *Full Name*, hereby solemnly promise on my honour to serve my Unit loyally and to be faithful to my obligations as a member of the Air Training Corps. I further promise to be a good citizen and to do my duty to God and the Queen, my Country and my Flag.” There is no alternative for young people who are atheists and non-religious.
The proposal to provide an alternative, non-religious, oath comes after representations from UKAFHA and the BHA based on the argument that the Royal Air Force Air Training Corps (RAF ATC) should comply with national and European legislation and with Ministry of Defence policy on equality and diversity.
UKAFHA General Secretary David Brittain, welcoming the news, said: ‘The Air Training Corps is a significant youth organisation with 35,000 young people across the UK involved in its 1009 squadrons. According to repeated surveys 65% or more of teenagers state they are not religious, and by failing to provide a non-religious oath the organisation has excluded a significant number of young people of good conscience who do not believe in any god and are not willing to lie by saying words they don’t believe.
‘While we welcome this news from the ATC there is still work to be done in ensuring that all Ministry of Defence sponsored youth organisations provide a similar promise. To not offer an alternative to the religious promises is divisive, unfair, and deeply sad.’
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson also welcomed the news, saying, ‘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. As well as supporting armed forces humanists in ensuring that forces youth organisations do not discriminate, we are engaging directly with both the Scouts and Guides on this issue and hope for progressive change on every front.’
For further comment or information contact BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 07534 248596 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The website of the UK Armed Forces Humanist Association:
The UK Armed Forces Humanist Association (UKAFHA) is a growing body of servicemen and women, their Families, Veterans and civilian members of the Ministry of Defence who seek to represent the interests of all those who subscribe to non-religious beliefs.
In 2006 and 2010, both the Scouts and Guides were granted an exemption from the Equality Act in order to allow them to continue to require their members to make a religiously discriminatory promise excluding non-religious young people not believing in a god. The BHA led the campaign in both years to try to remove this exemption, working with the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group. Even before 2006, the BHA had long campaigned in favour of the Scout Association changing their current requirement for members to promise to do their duty to god or another deity or religion and requests for help and advice from parents encountering this problem with the Scouts and Guides have remained one of the largest single categories of correspondence received by the BHA each year.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.