Prisons agree inmates can be humanists
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has agreed to recognize humanism as a religion after settling a lawsuit brought by an Oregon inmate.
The move comes a year after the U.S. Army agreed to recognize humanism as a religious choice for service members and may signal a broader government willingness to recognize humanism, a system of beliefs that recognizes no deity and emphasizes rational thinking.
“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.
The association sued the prison in 2014 on behalf of Jason Michael Holden, an inmate at the Federal Detention Center in Sheridan, Ore., who is serving a sentence for armed robbery. Holden was seeking the right to form a humanist study group, a right afforded prisoners of other faiths.
Under the settlement, the Federal Bureau of Prisons agreed to acknowledge humanism as a “worldview” and allow its adherents the same rights and recognition enjoyed by inmates of other faiths.
Those rights include requesting time and space for activities, visits by pastors or other humanist chaplains and access to literature and study materials.
Humanist inmates will also be able to celebrate “holy days,” including Darwin Day, the annual observance of naturalist Charles Darwin’s birthday on Feb. 12 that is now widely marked by humanist groups around the world.
| Religion News Service
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| The Star