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American Humanist Association Secures Equal Rights for Humanist Inmates in Federal Prison

For Immediate Release


Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, merrillmiller@americanhumanist.org

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

(Portland, OR, July 27, 2015)—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.

Further details of the settlement can be viewed here, and a copy of the denial of the motion to dismiss can be viewed here. A copy of the lawsuit can be viewed here.


Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.