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AHLC Demands Equality for Humanist Prisoners

For Immediate Release

Contact: Amy Couch, 202-238-9088,

Monica Miller, 202-238-9088,

(Nevada, December 20, 2017)—Today, the American Humanist Association (AHA) Appignani Humanist Legal Center filed a notice of appeal of the U.S. District Court of Nevada’s dismissal of their case filed on behalf of a Humanist prisoner to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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 allowing a prison to overtly discriminate against Humanists flouts decades of Supreme Court precedent holding that the Establishment Clause prohibits the government from favoring theism over nontheism, and specifically holding that Humanism is treated as a religion for constitutional purposes,” said Monica Miller, Senior Counsel for the AHA. “We are confident that the Ninth Circuit will reverse this ruling and recognize that prisons must accord equal treatment to Humanists and Christians alike.”

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.

The AHA has similar cases pending in the U.S. District Court of North Carolina, and Wyoming State Court.


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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