Aikenhead Award

The Aikenhead Award is given annually for outstanding services to secularism.

The Scottish Secular Society’s annual award for secularism is named in honour of Thomas Aikenhead, an Edinburgh student who in 1697 became one of the most tragic victims of an age in Scottish history dominated by violent religious fanaticism. He was arrested on the evidence of an informant and charged with blasphemy, under laws which carried the death sentence. His supposed crimes included dubbing theology ‘ill-invented nonsense’ and asserting that both Jesus and Moses were merely magicians who had learned their craft in Egypt. Despite his desperate pleas that he had recanted his heterodox views, Aikenhead was convicted and subsequently publicly hanged for blasphemy in Edinburgh. His death was the final execution in Britain for this medieval crime and has remained infamous to this day.


2015 Recipient Raif Badawi


His story: Raif is a husband and father to three. On his blog he hosted material criticising “senior religious figures” and suggested that Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University had become “a den for terrorists.” He was arrested by the Saudi government in 2012 on a charge of insulting Islam through electronic channels and cited for apostasy, a conviction which carries an automatic death sentence. Raif was brought to court and initially sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013. A sentence believed to have been lightened from the death penalty due to world-wide demands to free him. However, Raif was then re-sentenced to 1000 lashes and ten years in prison plus a fine in 2014. The lashes were to be carried out over 20 weeks. Raif’s wife,  Ensaf Haidar, accepted the award in his honour.




2016 Recipient The National Secular Society.


This year marked the 150th anniversary of the NSS. This award was given in recognition of the outstanding work from their many members over the century and half of fighting religious privilege, fighting for equality of all faiths and none, and changing the United Kingdom in many ways for the better. Their Vice President, Alistair McBay accepted the award in honour of the NSS.