Francesca Stavrakopoulou becomes a patron of Defence Humanists

25 January, 2023

Defence Humanists is delighted to welcome broadcaster and Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion Francesca Stavrakopoulou as its newest patron. She joins historian and TV presenter Dan Snow and philosopher and author Professor A C Grayling.

Defence Humanists is a section of Humanists UK that brings together service personnel, veterans, Ministry of Defence staff, and their families to support and represent the interests of the non-religious in the armed forces. It organises events and community activities for its members and leads Humanists UK’s participation in Remembrance Day events and similar activities around the UK. It is working towards the introduction of non-religious pastoral support in the armed forces.

Francesca is a Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter, and is a leading expert in religion’s interpretations of the past and influence on modern attitudes. She presented a three-part BBC documentary series about the Bible and archaeology, Bible’s Buried Secrets, in March 2011. She also appears regularly on TV and radio. Her first book for non-specialists God: An Anatomy was published in September 2021. Her husband is a former Royal Marines Commando.

Commenting on her appointment Francesca said:

‘It’s an honour to take on this role, and I’m looking forward to working with Defence Humanists in particular in doing all we can to improve mental health support for military personnel, veterans, and their families. It’s an issue close to my heart: my husband not only suffered a life-changing injury while serving as a Royal Marines Commando, but has lost several friends and colleagues to suicide. We’re all too aware of the urgent need for sustained, targeted support for all those within the military community.’

Defence Humanists President Roger Hutton said:

‘We are delighted today to welcome Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou as a patron, alongside Professor AC Grayling and Dan Snow. Francesca will bring a wealth of insight to the role, as well as a passion for doing the right thing by our armed forces personnel. We look forward to working with Francesca to support those who sacrifice so much in the defence of our country.’

Alongside the Humanists and Non-religious in Defence (HAND) network, Defence Humanists recently delivered its first in-person Remembrance Ceremony since 2019. Now in its eighth year, the Ceremony provides a forum for humanist and other non-religious military personnel, veterans, family members, and everyone who has been affected by war to commemorate the fallen in a manner that aligns with their beliefs.

Defence Humanists is also working to see the introduction of non-religious pastoral support services for the armed forces.  It and Humanists UK continue to work closely with the Ministry of Defence to make sure pastoral care in the armed forces becomes inclusive and equitable for people with non-religious beliefs.

Other institutions, including the NHS and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), have moved in recent years towards a multi-faith and belief and person-centred model, with 40% of NHS trusts now having a humanist pastoral supporter.


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Read more about Defence Humanists’ work.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Humanists UK campaigns for inclusive public ceremonies that are equally open to and meaningful for all regardless of religion and belief. For many years Humanists UK and Defence Humanists ran the campaign ‘For All Who Serve’ to highlight the exclusion of humanists from the National Service at the Cenotaph. Since 2018, humanists have been represented by its Chief Executive Andrew Copson.

You can join Defence Humanists by joining Humanists UK. Members of Defence Humanists also receive all the benefits of being a Humanists UK member, including voting rights at the AGM, a welcome pack and membership card, a regular newsletter, and access to the members section of Humanists UK website – as well as supporting our campaigns for a fairer society – all for £5 a month.