William McIlroy

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William J. McIlroy (born 1928) is a British secularist and atheist activist, writer and editor.

He was for many years editor of The Freethinker (three stints: 1970-1971, 1975–1976, 1981–1993) and General Secretary of the National Secular Society (two stints: 1963-1970, 1972–1977). In 2005, he received a lifetime achievement award from the NSS for 50 years of service to the secularist movement .

In 1989, McIlroy, along with Nicolas Walter reformed The Committee Against Blasphemy Law to protest at the threat to Salman Rushdie over his book The Satanic Verses. The Committee issued a Statement Against Blasphemy Law signed by over 200 public figures. McIlroy had been Secretary of the original Committee Against Blasphemy Law, which was founded in the late 1970s to protest the trial of the editor and publishers of Gay News. He was the keynote speaker at the inaugural meeting of the Gay Humanist Group, which became the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association.


  • Fine, Zac (2007). Praise Be for Secularism. .


  • Educational Reform: story of a campaign. London: National Secular Society, 1968.

  • Foundations of Modern Humanism. Sheffield: Sheffield Humanist Society, 1995. ISBN 0-9525644-0-8.

  • Without the Faith: Freethinkers and Freethought in Brighton and Hove. Brighton: , 2007

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