Bureau of Prisons Agrees to Recognize Humanism as a Religion, Darwin Day as a Holiday

Sunday, August 02, 2015
Jason Holden (photo: Center for Inquiry)

Being sentenced to federal prison no longer means an inmate can’t identify as a humanist and practice that belief system, according to a settlement reached with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The American Humanist Association went to court on behalf of Jason Holden, who’s imprisoned for armed robbery at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Oregon. Holden wanted the right to hold humanist study sessions and to be categorized as a humanist for official assignment purposes.


“As humanists, we believe in the ability of mankind to transcend their differences and find some common ground,” Holden said in a radio interview. “You know, make the world a better place.”


Under the settlement (pdf), the Federal Bureau of Prisons will acknowledge humanism as a worldview that deserves the same recognition as theistic religious beliefs. Its Manual on Inmate Beliefs and Practices will have a section on humanism, and inmates may identify as humanists for assignment purposes. Inmates will also be able to have humanist study groups and to observe Darwin Day just as Christians celebrate Christmas. Naturalist Charles Darwin’s birthday on February 12 is widely celebrated among humanists.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

American Humanist Association Secures Equal Rights for Humanist Inmates in Federal Prison (American Humanist Association)

Federal Prisons Will Now Recognize Humanism as a Religion (by Kimberly Winston, Religion News Source)

American Humanist Association and Jason Michael Holden, Plaintiffs, V. United States Of America; Federal Bureau Of Prisons, et. al (pdf)

Navy Refuses to Approve First Atheist Chaplain (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Atheists in Foxholes Demand Recognition (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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