AHA Sues For Equal Treatment of Humanist Inmates in Federal Prisons

9

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.”

Written By: AHA
continue to source article at americanhumanist.org

9 COMMENTS

  1. I’m with Morten Harket and his mates on this one, but I think asking for humanism to be recognised as an official religious assignment is the wrong route to go. Either no groups should be allowed or all groups irrespective of their basis. I suppose this might be the only legal way to go about it though, once again with the law discriminating in favour of the religious. So good luck to them, probably.

  2. In reply to #2 by 78rpm:

    I concur with headswapboy, Comment 1 It would give fodder to the claim (accusation) that atheism is a religion.

    There is a lot of stupidity as well as out right lies in any political system but in the US things have been getting worse in this regard not better. More and more the debates that go on inside what is considered the mainstream of US politics, the major media and politicians consist of people shouting talking points at each other rather than have intelligent debate. I mention that because I think this reasoning “people will interpret X badly so we can’t do X” is a bad response to the stupidity and lies.

    If you start guiding your political decisions by how ignorant and dishonest people will misinterpret what you say and do you end up not saying a lot of stuff that may need to be said and not doing a lot that needs to be done. You are in essence conceding to play with one hand tied your back because you are letting the idiots and liars dictate the game.

    So that is why one of my main principles about these kinds of debates is that it’s a mistake to worry about how stupid and dishonest people will misinterpret something you say or do. From what I know about the prison system this is a major problem and one that gets very little attention from the secular and atheist community. If you are in prison and you want to get parole or otherwise work within the system in the US you essentially have to pretend to be religious and even better to be Christian. I’m pretty sure most parole hearings give you a much better chance if you say you’ve found religion, have a spiritual sponsor like a priest or minister, go to church services, etc.

    So I’m glad the AHA is doing this and I don’t care a bit if this gives fodder to stupid people to say more stupid things.

  3. The problem seems to be in the recognition given to any “religious assignment option” by the Federal Correctional Institution. It should instead define areas of interest in which prisoners may be permitted to involve themselves in educational and cultural terms, not specifically religious terms. But trust religion to be given automatic recognition in the United States as a sure (cough cough) way of showing a prisoner’s development towards good citizenship! I am not entirely sure how this sort of thing works in my own country, but the impression I have is that the areas of interest are defined in educational and cultural terms. Since religion comes under culture, it is still an option, and many prisoners have taken this option here, though it is losing its efficacy and popularity among prisoners now, as religion has lost its traditional status in society. More to the point of the article, setting up or joining a humanist study group would be just as effective an option for a prisoner here to take, and permission for it would be just as forthcoming. There would certainly be no need to refer to it as a “religious assignment option”.

    • In reply to #5 by 78rpm:

      Good point, Ahsoka Tano Comment 3. Perhaps my view of the situation was a bit too narrow.

      Very graceful and honest on your part to concede a point. I don’t see a whole lot of that in my neck of the woods these days (or anywhere else for that matter). If more people adopted this wholesome attitude, the world would be a completely different place. I tip my hat to you.

  4. I’m a full blooded Atheist, but I’ll give all of you a lesson, I don’t like it but it’s the way things are!

    If you’re in prison (I don’t wish that on anybody, except a few!) and you want to get out early on parole you’d better get religion! That will be one of the “boxes” you’ll want to get checked off, parole boards really like things like that. If I ever wind up in prison, I’m aiming for the chaplain’s assistant job! I’m memorizing all the religious bullshit of my chosen religion.

    Also, for you innocent victims who are incarcerated in prison, maintaining your innocence does not go well with parole boards.
    It’s unfair, but it’s the way things are.

    • In reply to #8 by tSteve:

      I’m a full blooded Atheist, but I’ll give all of you a lesson, I don’t like it but it’s the way things are! If you’re in prison (I don’t wish that on anybody, except a few!) and you want to get out early on parole you’d better get religion! That will be one of the “boxes” you’ll want to get checked off, parole boards really like things like that. If I ever wind up in prison, I’m aiming for the chaplain’s assistant job! I’m memorizing all the religious bullshit of my chosen religion.

      Unfortunately I agree with you and if Science forbid I was every in the penal system I would… well I would probably blow my brains out before going to prison I just couldn’t do it but if I didn’t blow my brains out I would do anything to get out ASAP and that would probably have to include finding Jesus as my personal savior.

      Also, for you innocent victims who are incarcerated in prison, maintaining your innocence does not go well with parole boards. It’s unfair, but it’s the way things are.

      Some of the stories about innocent men, mostly black men, in prison are especially heart breaking for that reason. Not only are you imprisoned for a crime you didn’t commit but to get out you have to pretend to go along with the lies. But saying “it’s the way things are” is not the same as saying it’s the way things have to be. It’s why we have democracy and as citizens in a democracy it’s not just our right but our responsibility to change these kinds of things. (Cue patriotic music…)

Leave a Reply