For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
(Irvine, Calif., June 20, 2016)—In response to demands from the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the California Department of Corrections is no longer requiring parolee Taylor Bast, a nontheistic Buddhist, to attend a religious treatment program as a condition of his parole.
The American Humanist Association contacted the California Department of Corrections on June 8 to inform them that Bast’s First Amendment rights were being violated when he was required to attend one of three faith-based substance abuse programs or face arrest and jail time. On two separate occasions, Bast requested secular alternatives, but his requests were denied by both his parole officer and unit supervisor. The officers also required that Bast provide written documentation for his Buddhist and philosophical worldviews. On Friday, June 17, the American Humanist Association received written assurances from the California Department of Corrections, stating that Bast will be referred to the non-faith-based Day Reporting Center and that he will also be given the option of attending the secular treatment program SMART Recovery.
“We are satisfied that the California Department of Corrections is complying with the Establishment Clause and our client’s fundamental right to be free from religious coercion by the government,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “In the future, we expect the Department to make secular alternatives known and available to all parolees.”
“Failing to provide secular substance programs to parolees is a serious injustice against nonreligious and nontheistic individuals,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “The state of California should prioritize individuals’ need for effective treatment above pushing a religious agenda.”
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.