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AHA Sues for Equal Treatment of Humanist Inmates in Federal Prisons

For Immediate Release

Maggie Ardiente
202-238-9088 ext. 116, mardiente@americanhumanist.org

Monica Miller
202-238-9088 ext. 120, mmiller@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, DC, April 8, 2014)— The American Humanist Association and a federal inmate filed a lawsuit against correctional officials at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, challenging the prison's unequal treatment of humanist and atheist inmates.

Jason Holden, a member of the American Humanist Association and the Humanist Community of Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, California, is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Sheridan, Oregon, which would not grant permission for him to form a humanist study group and refused to recognize humanism as an official religious assignment option as a means to receive benefits similar to other religions.

“The federal prison system has unfairly discriminated against atheist and humanist inmates simply because they lack a belief in God,” said Monica Miller, attorney for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “It’s unconstitutional for the prison to give inmates of theistic religions special treatment. Humanist inmates should be entitled to meet and study together to the same degree as their theistic counterparts.”

Inmates at FCI have the opportunity to select from a wide range of religious beliefs, including “atheism” and “no preference,” for the benefit of organizing. The lawsuit seeks to have “humanist” recognized as an option alongside other religious assignments.  

Details of the lawsuit can be viewed here

The American Humanist Association is a nonprofit organization advocating progressive values and equality for humanists, atheists, and non-religious Americans. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 180 local chapters and affiliates across America. Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in a god.