scouts hijab niqab
Freedom of Religion

Christian Scout leader expelled for expressing concerns about the Scout Association’s anti-Christian bias

Brian Walker has been a member of the Scout Association since he was a boy. He got all his badges and tied all his knots; he swam and climbed and camped and cooked, and rose through the decades to become a senior Scout leader to guide other young boys (and now girls) in fun, adventure and skills for life. Mr Walker has dedicated a lifetime of being prepared for whatever Scouts have to Be Prepared for.

But he really wasn’t prepared for this.

On reading through recent editions of the Scouting Scouting magazine, he became concerned at the extent to which the Association’s disposition toward diversity and inclusion was including and diversifying to accommodate everyone and everything except Christians and Christianity. So he wrote to the magazine’s editor. His letter wasn’t published, for the magazine has no ‘letters’ page: it was a private email expressing his personal concerns to the editor about the magazine’s anti-Christian bias.

Four days later, his membership of the Scout Association was summarily terminated, and he was expelled.

He appealed their judgment, and their decision was upheld on the basis of his transgression of the Scout Association’s Equalities Policy: “The Scout Association opposes all forms of prejudice and discrimination, including racism, sexism and homophobia.”

What had he written? Well, you’ll find snippets from his email reported on a few websites (see here, here, here and here), but the essence of his concern is the magazine’s (and so the Association’s) anti-Christian drift. Yes, he might have expressed himself a little better (he needn’t have compared the woman wearing a niqab to Darth Vader; he needn’t have said that ‘camping’ is taking on a whole new meaning with the emphasis on LGBT inclusion), but to expel him for his limited capacity of expression is hardly very inclusive, is it? Do they summarily eject every scout who jokes about the Saudi oppression of women or who quips about matters of sex and sexuality? Do they censor all conversation while they’re cooking around the camp fire?

These are the sorts of things the Scouting magazine announces in its calendar:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s all fairly innocuous stuff, of the sort which might occupy your (very) average RE teacher.

But here’s a thing. In its drive for diversity and inclusion, the Scouting magazine does appear to be extremely keen on matters Islamic and LGBT. Why, for example, is there such a focus on Pride, Homophobia and AIDS, but nothing on (say) Red Wednesday, drawing attention to those who are persecuted for their faith? Why so many pictures of women in hijabs and niqabs, but no Christians wearing crosses (or reports of those who are harassed and excluded for doing so)? Why is there a ‘faith resources’ link after Eid al-Fitr, to which Scouts may turn for further spiritual enhancement, but none after Christmas (“spread kindness”) or Easter (“chocolate eggs”)?

Why does the Scouting magazine exhort children to visit mosques (“for the My Faith badge”), but bends over backwards to ensure that their celebration of St George’s day must avoid divisive religious buildings (ie churches)?

Why does Scouting magazine promote the wearing of the niqab?

 

Seriously, are there no Safeguarding issues with this? How do her fellow scouts know that this is actually DBS-checked Zainab moving amongst them? Are there no Health & Safety issues? How does she shout an urgent warning of danger through this muffled garb? How does she abseil safely down a cliff? How does she safely navigate a canoe? What if she capsizes? Is there not a manifest increased risk to her life? What if a child capsizes? How does she react swiftly to effect rescue?

And how do deaf, lip-reading scouts begin to understand her? Or are they excluded from all consideration in the name of faith diversity and Saudi-culture inclusion?

Presumably, it’s ‘Islamophobic’ (/racist) to ask such questions.

Brian Walker expressed his concerns to the editor of the Scouting magazine, and was duly expelled for (presumably) racism. He comments on his treatment:

The irony is that the Chief Scout is Bear Grylls, an internationally-known Christian who is the figure-head for the Alpha Course – which specifically states that Jesus is the only way to God and that Christianity is unique! Their own Chief Scout believes this, and says this publicly, and yet, when I, as a life-long grassroots member, challenge the values in a letter which is not even published, I am silenced and dismissed.

I am raising this case as I believe the fundamental values of Scouting are being undermined. Parents need to be made aware of what is happening at the centre of Scouting, and will eventually flow out into the local groups. We need to act now to maintain and protect the values on which the movement was based.

We could go a little further. The Patron of the Scout Association is Her Majesty the Queen, who is Supreme Governor of the Church of England (those well-known divisive religious buildings), who swore in her Coronation Oath to “maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the gospel and the Protestant reformed religion established by law”. How inclusive and diverse is that?

The Scout Promise for Christians is:

On my honour,
I promise that I will do my best
to do my duty to God
and to the Queen,
to help other people
and to keep the Scout Law.

Brian Walker is doing his duty to God and to the Queen – he is defending the Faith and seeking to uphold the foundational Christian ethic of the Scouting movement, which is manifestly inclusive for the gospel is for all mankind (/personkind). He is patently not racist, sexist or homophobic: you’d hardly sustain a commitment to Scout leadership over decades if you were offended by pluralism. You may not agree with his choice of words, but his concerns, which were privately expressed, are not without merit. In most other organisations, he might have been lightly reprimanded or perhaps sent off for mandatory diversity training. But expulsion would seem to be a punishment out of all proportion to his alleged transgression.

Mr Walker is being ably assisted by Christian Concern. If the courts fail to make the Scout Association reconsider its excessive action, Mr Walker ought to take his case up with Chief Scout (and committed Christian) Bear Grylls. If Mr Grylls isn’t keen to intervene, Mr Walker ought to take his case up with the Scout Association Patron (and Defender of the Faith) Her Majesty the Queen. That should keep the matter in the public eye for many months to come.