AHA Wins Recognition of Humanism in Prisons

AHA Wins Recognition of Humanism in Prisons July 29, 2015

The American Humanist Association has reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed against the Federal Bureau of Prisons over the agency’s refusal to give humanist inmates the same privileges given to religious ones. The Bureau has agreed to recognize humanism officially in its policies.

The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center reached a favorable settlement with the Federal Bureau of Prisons regarding its lawsuit brought on behalf of Jason Holden, a humanist inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Oregon. Holden was denied the right to form a humanist study group and identify as a humanist for official assignment purposes.

“This settlement is a victory for all humanists in the federal prison system, who will no longer be denied the rights that religious individuals are accorded,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.

Under the terms of the enforceable settlement, the Federal Bureau of Prisons will acknowledge humanism as a worldview that deserves the same recognition as theistic religious beliefs. The Manual on Inmate Beliefs and Practices will include a section on humanism, and inmates may identify as humanists for official assignment purposes. The prison will also authorize humanist study groups and permit humanist inmates to annually observe Darwin Day.

“The constitutional rights of humanists have been vindicated, and humanist inmates will no longer face discrimination simply because they lack a belief in a god or gods,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

The settlement comes eight months after the court refused to dismiss the claims brought by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, which demanded that humanists be given the same treatment as theistic inmates under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection mandate of the Fifth Amendment. Denying the Bureau of Prison’s motion to dismiss, the court ruled that prison accommodations must treat atheism and humanism just as favorably as they do theistic religion.

This is great news. And once again, I am really impressed with the work the Appignani Humanist Legal Center is doing. They’re taking on and winning cases at a tremendous rate. Bravo to the AHA.

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