BHA mourns Lord Wedderburn of Charlton QC FBA (1927-2012)
The BHA has learned with great sorrow of the death of its Distinguished Supporter and member of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, the Labour life peer Kenneth William (Bill) Wedderburn.
Lord Wedderburn was educated at Aske's Grammar School, Whitgift School, and Queen's College, Cambridge, where he graduated in law, and after serving in the RAF for two years, he began a long career in labour law and academia. He worked at the University of Cambridge and then the London School of Economics as the Cassell Professor of Commercial Law, and was created a life peer with the title Baron Wedderburn of Charlton, of Highgate in the County of Greater London, in 1977.
He gave decades of support to the British Humanist Association and was an active and dedicated member of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group. In his most significant contribution, speaking "as a humanist", to a debate in the House of Lords in April 2007 on “the position in British society of those who profess no religion” he defended the human rights of non-believers, "who suffer a number of disadvantages in a religious environment", citing the law on charitable status, the absence of support for humanists hospitals and prisons, the questionable 2001 census figures on religious belief, and the proliferation of discriminatory Church schools. He quoted from the objects of one Church school to instruct pupils that “those who love Jesus the Lord will enjoy his presence forever. But those who do not will face God’s judgment”, describing this as "hardly an inclusive philosophy to put to children," and ended by suggesting "that there are practical matters for ordinary people here which demand some inquiry or consultation from the Government with the British Humanist Association."
He was always willing to speak on Bills and in debates that called for a humanist intervention and was particularly concerned, as his professional career set him up to be, with religious discrimination in schools and in the field of employment where he was a strong opponent of exceptions from the Equality Act which allowed - and still allow today - discrimination by religious groups.
BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said, 'Bill was an indispensable adviser to us on a range of issues and his support for humanist causes was comprehensive and unfailing. When I myself was working for the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group I found his support and counsel invaluable. He would always turn out to a humanist event, even when very ill, and his indomitable character was a source of inspiration to us all.'