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The National Council for Civil Liberties was founded in 1934 by Ronald Kidd and Sylvia Scaffardi, both consummate humanists in outlook and deed. Not only does the badge serve as a reminder of the many humanist activists and organisers behind these organisations, but of the physical wearing and enactment of the values they stood for by thousands of people who participated in these efforts – motivated by a commitment to safeguarding human rights and civil liberties. The National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty) arose in 1934 in response to police efforts to stop protests during the Hunger Marches, and to defend against other attempts to restrict individual liberty. Among its leading lights were many prominent humanists, including E.M. Forster, who gave Kidd’s funeral oration (printed in Two Cheers for Democracy). In it, he described Kidd’s unstinting devotion to the concept of liberty for all:

If he had cared for our freedom less, if he had worked less, if he had nursed his health and considered his own comfort, he could have been alive now, though it could not have been a life he valued. I know the political and philosophical difficulties inherent in this idea of freedom: freedom for what: freedom to do what: freedom at whose expense, and so on. As a conception it is negative: but as a faith it is positive, and Ronald Kidd upheld it till his dying day.

A previous and short-lived iteration of an organisation of the same name had involved J.A. Hobson, who was also an early President of the Union of Ethical Societies (now Humanists UK). Humanists played leading roles in the formation of the major organisations for civil liberty in England, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland: Ronald Kidd and Sylvia Scaffardi in the NCCL; John D. Stewart in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA); and Owen Sheehy-Skeffington and Kader Asmal in the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

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