For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
(Raleigh, NC, Feb. 26, 2015)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a lawsuit against North Carolina Department of Public Safety prison authorities. The lawsuit challenges the North Carolina state prison system’s unconstitutional discrimination against humanist inmates under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Kwame Jamal Teague, an inmate at Lanesboro Correctional Institution in Polkton, North Carolina, and member of the Ethical Humanist Society of the Triangle, who wishes to meet with other humanist inmates who share his worldview. Though the North Carolina prison system allows a wide array of theistic groups to meet, it has persistently refused to authorize a meeting group for atheists and humanists. Prison officials also denied Mr. Teague’s request to identify as a humanist for assignment purposes, despite recognizing numerous religious designations for such purposes.
“Giving special privileges to theistic inmates while denying the same to humanist inmates promotes religion over nonreligion in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” said Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “The cases make clear that prisons must accord atheists and humanists the same treatment as theistic inmates when it comes to religious study groups.”
“Disregarding the rights of humanist and atheist inmates to meet and discuss their convictions is a form of blatant discrimination against nontheists, who should receive the same treatment as anyone else in the prison system” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “We are not claiming that humanism is a religion, but humanists and atheists must be given the same rights as the religious.”
The lawsuit seeks declaratory relief, damages and a permanent injunction ordering the North Carolina prison system to authorize humanist study groups to meet in the same manner as their religious counterparts. The lawsuit also demands that the prison system recognize humanism for assignment purposes.
Details 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 non-religious 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.