The two-minute “God slot” at 7.50am on Radio 4’s Today programme has long seemed anachronistic. At its most benign, “Thought for the Day” has offered comfortable homilies from the likes of Rabbi Lionel Blue, and while dominated by Anglican and Catholic voices, it is inclusive of several major world religions. But it remains closed to humanists. In my two stints working on the Today programme in the early 90s it was clear that whatever the programme’s editors thought of TFTD, it could not be touched.
The battle to get humanists on the strand has been going on for decades. It has become a symbolic issue, given TFTD’s prominent position on the nation’s flagship morning news programme. And there is an untold side to this history. While researching the private diaries and letters of the late Christian activist Mary Whitehouse, I uncovered evidence of her efforts and strategic role in allying establishment forces – including, it seems, the Queen – in keeping humanists off the strand.
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