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Humanists Continue Fight for Equality in Nevada Prisons

(Washington, D.C., September 5, 2019) – American Humanist Association (AHA)’s Legal Director and Senior Counsel, Monica Miller, just filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, arguing that a 3-judge panel incorrectly dismissed AHA’s case seeking equal treatment for humanist inmates in Nevada prisons. Today’s filing argues that the case should be reheard by the panel or en banc.

The AHA filed suit in 2016 on behalf of Benjamin Espinosa and other Humanist inmates against the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) for refusing to recognize humanism and provide humanist study group meetings while providing study group meetings for a wide array of groups ranging from Scientology to Thelema. The District Court upheld NDOC’s discriminatory treatment of humanists on the grounds that they do not believe in a Supreme Being. The AHA appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit.

Weeks before oral argument, the NDOC filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the case was moot in light of its recent addition of “Humanism” to a non-binding “Overview Chart.” The AHA argued that the NDOC failed to prove that it has granted the relief requested in the lawsuit (group meetings) and that it has stopped discriminating against Humanists.

As Miller argues in today’s filing, “NDOC’s latest action only magnifies and compounds its longstanding disparate treatment of Humanists.” “Quite the opposite,” Miller explained. “NDOC automatically approved Hebrew Israelite for meetings in the Overview Chart rather than saying ‘None’ as it did for Humanists on the same day. If NDOC truly intends to allow weekly meetings for Humanists, why it did not simply include that in the Overview Chart defies reason.”

Read today’s Petition for Rehearing En Banc here.

Read a case summary and view other case filings here.

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