Federal Prison Rules to Afford Humanists Religious Rights

By Forsaken Fotos from , Maryland (Cells at Lorton Prison) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Forsaken Fotos from , Maryland (Cells at Lorton Prison) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A settlement awarded to Humanist inmates in federal prisons will allow one hour per week for worship and study.

Thanks to a recent lawsuit, inmates in Federal prisons will now have Humanism as a choice when declaring religious affiliation, reports the Lethbridge Herald. 

his is more than a checklist-changing decision, however.  Religious groups are afforded many accommodations in prison that others are not.  And until now, Humanists could only check the box for Atheist, who are not afforded any accommodations or privileges.

The lawsuit was filed by Jason Michael Holden, a Humanist and inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Oregon.  Humanism, for Holden, is more than just an Atheistic belief.  The following was written in a statement regarding the case, reports patheos.com:

“…Seeing things through a Humanist lens creates within him a spiritual connection with the natural world.  Humanism gives Holden inner peace and security and has helped him realize the natural gift of his life”.

Holden was not the only Humanist who had to settle for Atheist as a religious designation.  There were seven others in the same situation, which is more than the single member of the Baha’i faith. 

As a result of the lawsuit settlement, Humanists will now be able to meet like other religious groups at the Sheridan facility, with a designated place to worship, an hour for worship each week, and also an hour for classroom and study time each week.

While it seems like a total victory for their belief system, not all Humanists are pleased with the decision.  But it’s not that they don’t want the accommodations.  Secular Humanists don’t want to be lumped into the group of religions, but they still believe they deserve the same privileges

While it seems like this might be splitting hairs with this particular ruling, it is an important philosophical distinction to be made if this case is used as a precedent for future court rulings.


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