Federal Inmates Are|Free to Be Humanists

     (CN) – The Federal Bureau of Prisons will recognize humanism as a religion and allow inmates to “worship” accordingly under the terms of a settlement filed in an Oregon federal court.
     The American Humanist Association and federal inmate Jason Michael Holden filed a civil rights action against the United States, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and others in 2014 over the government’s refusal allow Holden to form a humanist study group.
     In his complaint, Holden said he is a member of the Humanist Community of Silicon Valley, which views itself as a church and meets Sunday mornings in Palo Alto, Calif. – and touts a program “similar to a Christian Sunday school” where families can “talk, play, experiment and learn from each other.”
     Holden sued to be added to the bureau’s list of 24 officially recognized religions, which already includes atheism and paganism as well as “no preference,” “other” and “unknown.”
     Last month, the bureau’s Central Office Religious Issues Committee recognized humanism, as defined by Holden, is religious in nature. As a result, Holden can organize a humanist study group as long as there are at least two people interested in belonging to the group at all times, the four-page settlement said.
     Humanist inmates will also be permitted to observe Darwin Day and other “holy” days just as inmates of other religions do, according to the settlement.
     The government also agreed to pay Holden’s $98,300 legal bill
     U.S. Magistrate Judge John Acosta presided over the case, and will retain jurisdiction until 2017.
     Benjamin Haile of Portland Law Collective and American Humanist Association’s in-house counsel Monica Miller represented Holden.
     Holden – who has been in prison for armed robbery in Washington for more than a decade – said in a radio interview that humanists differ from atheists because “we believe in the ability of mankind to transcend their differences and find some common ground.”
     He added, “You know, make the world a better place.

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