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BHA mourns Sir Ludovic Kennedy (1919-2009)

Sir Ludovic Kennedy, distinguished supporter of the British Humanist Association, has died at the age of 89.

In 1984, he gave the British Humanist Association’s prestigious Voltaire Lecture which was published as a pamphlet, An End to Belief. It was a subject to which he returned in 1999 when he published his highly personal musings on the harm Christianity has done to civilization, All in the Mind: a Farewell to God, detailing his philosophical objections to religion. Like most freethinkers, Kennedy characterised God as a creation of human beings, rather than the reverse. He was a co-founder and former Chair of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES), but parted company with the VES in 2004 over his support of more active assistance to terminally ill patients than the VES was prepared to advocate. One of his many books is Euthanasia – the Good Death (1990).

In July 2001 he was one of the signatories to a letter published in The Independent which urged the Government to reconsider its support for the expansion of maintained religious schools and in 2003 was a signatory of the BHA petition calling for a public holiday on the anniversary of Darwin’s birth.

Kennedy campaigned vigorously against various miscarriages of justice, and several of his books question the convictions in a number of notable cases in British criminal history; his work contributed to the abolition of the death penalty in Britain in 1965. In his 2003 book 36 Murders and 2 Immoral Earnings he concluded that the adversarial system of justice that pertains in the UK and the United States “is an invitation to the police to commit perjury, which they frequently do,’ and he preferred the inquisitorial system.

In World War II Kennedy served in the navy on various destroyers and was involved in the chase after the Bismarck, about which he wrote a book Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the “Bismarck”. After the war he began a career as a journalist, becoming a campaigning, investigative reporter. He wrote for Newsweek and became a television journalist and newsreader for ITN. He presented Panorama for several years. He appeared as himself in several episodes of the political comedy series Yes, Minister. He was knighted in 1994 for his services to journalism.

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