(Reno, Nevada, February 20, 2018)—Today, the American Humanist Association (AHA) Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed its opening appellate brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in its appeal from the U.S. District Court of Nevada’s dismissal of their case filed on behalf of Humanist inmates in Nevada state prisons.
The lawsuit, filed in October 2016, asserts that the Nevada Department of Corrections’ refusal to allow Humanist inmates to study and discuss their shared convictions in a group setting while authorizing meetings for many faith groups of similar and smaller sizes violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The lawsuit further asserts that the Department’s refusal to recognize Humanism as an approved “Faith Group,” which is necessary for group meetings, storage space, and other accommodations, while approving twenty-eight other traditions including Buddhism, Thelema, and Siddha Yoga, violates these constitutional mandates as well.
“The District Court’s decision overtly discriminates against Humanists, favors theism over nontheism, and flouts decades of Supreme Court precedent,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel for the AHA. “Not only did the Supreme Court make clear decades ago that Secular Humanism is deemed a religion for constitutional purposes, but it has also repeatedly held that the government is forbidden from promoting religion over nonreligion.”
Roy Speckhardt, executive director of AHA agrees. “Our Constitution doesn’t allow government to favor one religion over another or religion itself over nonreligion. That’s why it’s discriminatory and illegal for the government to accommodate traditional religious groups, but disallow otherwise identically structured humanist and nonreligious groups.”
In 2015, the AHA scored a legal victory on behalf of Humanists in federal prisons in their case against the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Prisons. After a federal judge refused to dismiss the case in 2014, declaring that Humanists must be accorded equal treatment, the Bureau of Prisons agreed to recognize Humanism and accord its adherents the same benefits enjoyed by inmates of other faiths, including time and space for Humanist meetings and special time to celebrate Darwin Day.
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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