The scouting organization's pastoral council, run by Catholic priests, warns that the move could give rise to atheistic sentiment.
The Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (ZHP) has allowed its scouts to omit the word “God” from their scouting oath. The decision was made in May at the 42nd National Congress of the Polish Scouting Association in Warsaw.
According to Notes From Poland, scouts will be offered an alternate oath that has changed the portion where they swear to “serve God and Poland.” The new oath would allow Polish scouts swear service to Poland alone. In their statement announcing the change, ZHP representatives explained their reasoning:
“As an organization, we want to give young people the opportunity to look for their own path,” wrote the ZHP in a statement. “Establishing a version that … omits the word ‘God’ will legitimize the accession of people who are not ready to define their faith, but are still looking for it.”
The statement went on to note that the organization’s leadership had been discussing the change since 2014. The ZHP said that the change was “democratically decided” by leadership members and the scout’s instructors. They cited themselves as a “constantly evolving organization” and suggested that the change addresses “issues that are important to its members.”
Not all within the ZHP’s leadership are in favor of the change, however, as the ZHP’s pastoral council has decried the change. Run by seven Catholic priests, the council warned that the move could give rise to atheistic sentiment and can be viewed as “descrimination consisting of open de-Christianisation.” They stated:
“We take a negative view of the change, believing that it serves primarily to remove Christian values[,] … undermine the identity of the Polish scout, and violate a more than one-hundred-year-old tradition of scouting, which was clearly oriented towards God and Christian values.”
Poland’s Secretary of State, Jan Dziedziczak, weighed in, calling the move a “bad decision.” Dziedziczak, who is a scouting instructor with the Scouting Association of the Republic (ZHR), the second most attended Polish scouting group, agreed with the priests. He suggested that the removal of “God” from the oath is an ideology of its own. He said in an interview with Radio Poznań:
“There is no such thing as ideological neutrality,” he said. “Often, under the slogan of ideological neutrality, attempts are made to implement atheist ideology … to build a world without God.”
The ZHP has defended their position by pointing to other scouting associations that have made similar moves in recent years. In Denmark and Sweden, members are only required to swear to uphold scout law. Switzerland has also made the oath to God optional, and in Australia scouts must only be true to their “spiritual beliefs.”
The Boy Scouts of America has retained its reference to God in its oath: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”