Classic campfire songs that include references to God and religion will no longer be used by Girl Guides, the organisation has announced.
According to new guidelines, leaders of Rainbows, Brownies, Guides, and Rangers can change the lyrics of any song to omit religious and racist references that might make the girls feel unwelcome.
In a now-deleted blog, the organisation cited examples of how the groups could make the songs “inclusive for everyone”.
A Brownie group, for example, has altered the lyrics to the end-of-meeting and camp song Brownie Bells to avoid using “Lord” and “God”.
The original version said: “Oh Lord our God, Thy children call, Grant us thy peace, And bless us all. Good Night; Goodnight”
But now, in the updated version, the girls sing: “Time for the end, our meeting’s past, Brownies is great, time flies so fast, goodnight. I’m a Brownie, you’re a Brownie, Brownies all around the world. Goodnight Brownies everywhere.”
References to racism or colonial past have also been removed from songs. The blog cited as an example the case of Emma, a group leader who has stopped singing some songs such as Land Of The Silver Birch, the Canadian folk song, and Five Little Monkeys, the nursery rhyme “because of their colonial and racist histories”.
The decision has raised questions among Christians, who think the organisation is trying to delete its Christian heritage.
“The Girl Guides and Scouts should remember that their founders, Robert Baden-Powell and his sister Agnes, were motivated by their faith,” Ciaran Kelly, of The Christian Institute, told the Mail on Sunday.
He continued: “Erasing their past and our traditions do not promote greater inclusion or diversity. Quite the opposite. The many Christian members of the Girl Guides will certainly question how welcome they really are. I hope they reconsider this decision.”
However, in a statement to Premier, the organisation defended its decision: “We are proud to be an inclusive organisation. Our ambition for diversity and inclusion is for Girlguiding to be a place where everyone is welcome and is free to be themselves – whoever they are and wherever they’re from.”
“As part of our commitment, it’s important we consider elements of our heritage that may not illustrate our values and ethos of today, and how they may be excluding girls or volunteers from taking part fully or feeling truly welcome. We encourage all members to consider how they can do their part to support our ambition to be a place where everyone has an equal sense of belonging.”