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David Pollock


All of us at Humanistically Speaking were very sorry to learn of the death of David Pollock (1942-2023). David was a highly respected humanist activist and leader who dedicated his life to advancing the humanist movement. Humanists UK recognized his significant contributions to the organization and the broader humanist community. David's extensive involvement with Humanists UK spanned several decades, during which he served as a trustee from 1965 to 1975 and again from 1997 until his retirement in 2021 due to health issues. He also held positions as a board member and former Chair of the Rationalist Association and served as President of the European Humanist Federation from 2006 to 2012.


David's journey in the humanist movement began during his time as a student at Oxford University, where he played a vital role in the growth and success of the Oxford University Humanist Group. As a student leader, he helped the humanist group become the largest student organization at the university, hosting influential humanist speakers and advocating for various causes such as women's admission to the Oxford Union Society, global poverty, and LGBT rights. Equality, human rights, and non-discrimination were central themes that fuelled David's passion throughout his life.


During the 1960s and 1970s, David became a prominent figure in Humanists UK, actively shaping its direction and initiatives. He strongly advocated for raising the organization's public profile, believing that humanists could effect positive change in society. His efforts played a crucial role in establishing the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, enabling humanists to have a voice in Parliament and driving significant reforms related to decriminalizing homosexuality, legalizing abortion, and ending censorship and the death penalty.


Beyond his national involvement, David dedicated himself to international humanist concerns. His leadership of the European Humanist Federation contributed to the development of a policy platform for humanists engaging with the European Union and the Council of Europe. He later became the head of Humanists International's delegation to the Council of Europe, further expanding his impact on a global scale.


David's expertise in human rights and the law surrounding religion or belief was widely recognized. He was chosen as the humanist representative on a high-profile group convened by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, working alongside the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, on the landmark report ‘Religion or belief: is the law working?’ His strategic acumen and legal expertise guided Humanists UK's lobbying and litigation efforts, including interventions at the Supreme Court on assisted dying and abortion rights, a successful High Court case securing the place of humanism in religious education, and a victorious legal challenge in Northern Ireland that led to the recognition of legal humanist marriages.


Despite a diagnosis of cancer, David remained actively involved with Humanists UK, collaborating closely with the organization's public affairs and policy team as a full-time volunteer. He also contributed to charitable endeavours, serving as treasurer of Education and Health Trust Uganda, a charity focused on supporting impoverished communities in Uganda.


David Pollock will be remembered as an inspirational colleague, mentor, and friend. His six decades of unwavering commitment to humanist causes, his remarkable knowledge and dedication, and his warm and generous nature have left an indelible mark on Humanists UK and the wider humanist movement. His legacy will continue to shape society for the better, and he will be deeply missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.


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