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AHLC Defends Rights of Humanist Inmate

For Immediate Release

For more information, contact:

Roy Speckhardt, 202-238-9088 David Niose, 202-238-9088,

(Raleigh, N.C., January 24, 2018) The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is in federal court this morning arguing on behalf of a North Carolina state prison inmate who is being denied the right to form a humanist group.

“This is a clear case of unlawful, discriminatory treatment of humanists,” said AHA senior counsel Monica Miller, who is arguing the motion on behalf of the plaintiffs. “Just because inmates don’t believe in God, that doesn’t mean the state can deny them privileges that are given to believers.”

The case, originally filed in 2015, is before the court in Raleigh, North Carolina, on cross motions for summary judgment. The civil complaint filed by AHA’s lawyers argues that the North Carolina prison system’s unfair treatment of humanist inmates, denying them the right to meet to study and discuss their convictions while allowing inmates from a wide variety of religious backgrounds to do so, violates the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The inmate in question, Kwame Teague, has been seeking to organize and participate in a humanist group since at least 2012. In January of that year, he submitted a written request, the first of several, to prison officials, only to be led on a years-long ordeal that resulted in him ultimately being denied. After the AHA sent a written demand on his behalf to state prison officials but received no adequate response, suit was filed in 2015, with the AHA itself also named as a plaintiff.

“Anti-humanist prejudice from government officials can’t be tolerated,” said AHA executive director Roy Speckhardt. “We are hoping this case will send a strong message of inclusion to prison officials in North Carolina and beyond.”

A decision from the court is expected later this year.


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.

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