Sunday, July 15, 2007

Polly Toynbee named new President of British Humanist Association

reposted from BHA

Political and social commentator Polly Toynbee (wiki) has been appointed as the new President of the British Humanist Association (BHA), taking up the office that fell vacant with the death of comedian Linda Smith last year.

Ms Toynbee, accepting the appointment, said, ‘I am honoured to be appointed President of the BHA at a time when not for many years has there been such a need to promote a Humanist view of the world. Religious fanaticism is the clear and present danger all round the world. We need to oppose religious zealotry by promoting the positive and liberating case for believing life on earth is precious because the here and now is all there is and our destiny is in our own hands. Mankind itself has all the innate moral strength it needs, without inventing divine reward and wrath.

‘Humanism is tolerant of all beliefs, so long as they oppress no-one else, including weak members of their own communities, and so long as they seek no special privileges from the state. The Humanist view of life is progressive and optimistic, in awe of human potential, living without fear of judgement and death, finding enough purpose and meaning in life, love and leaving a good legacy.’

Ms Toynbee takes up her new office at a time of greatly increased activity for the BHA, with growing membership and public support for its work and the importance of its campaigns against religious privilege and discrimination (most notably in state-funded ‘faith schools’) gaining wider recognition.

Hanne Stinson, BHA chief executive, welcoming the appointment, said, ‘We are all delighted. Polly is highly articulate, and well respected as a commentator on social affairs and religion: just the person we need to raise the profile of the BHA and help us get the views of the people we represent across to government and opinion-formers. She is a great opinion-former herself, and I am sure she will do a wonderful job for us. Linda Smith – the BHA’s much loved President until her tragically early death last year – will be a very hard act to follow, but I am sure that Polly can do it.’

For more about Polly Toynbee see note 1 below.
For more about the office of President see note 2 below.
For more about the British Humanist Association see note 3 below.

To arrange interviews or for more info rmation, contact Hanne Stinson on 020 7079 3583 or email or contact Andrew Copson (BHA Education and Public Affairs) on 020 7079 3584 or email


1. About Polly Toynbee

Polly Toynbee is a political and social commentator on ‘The Guardian’. She was the BBC’s Social Affairs Editor until 1996, and has previously worked for ‘The Independent’, ‘The Observer’ and ‘The Washington Monthly’, USA . She has written books on the NHS, adoption, unskilled work and audits of Labour’s first and second terms. Her recent book was ‘Hard Work: Life in Low Pay Britain’. Among other awards, she has won the George Orwell prize and this year’s Commentator of the Year in the National Press Awards. She is Chair of the Brighton Festival and President of the Social Policy Association. She is a director of the Wise Group, a social enterprise for employment. Educated at Badminton School , Holland Park Comprehensive and Oxford University , she lives in Lambeth and has four children and three grandchildren.

List of recent Guardian columns.

List of most Poly Toynbee articles

Polly Toynbee is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society

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