Judge Rules Prison System Must Recognize Humanism as ‘Faith Group,’ Allow Humanist Inmates to Hold Meetings

RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge appointed to the bench by then-President Ronald Reagan has ruled that the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the Lanesboro Correctional Institution were in error in declining to recognize an inmate’s religion as humanism, and prohibiting him from forming a humanist study group.

“[D]efendants have not demonstrated a secular purpose for denying humanism recognition as a religious group or for the decision to prohibit humanist inmates from organizing group meetings,” wrote U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle on Thursday.

“Defendants’ refusal to recognize humanism as a faith group and to accommodate humanist meetings violates the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses,” he said.

As previously reported, the American Humanist Association (AHA) had filed suit last July on behalf of Kwame Teague, who has been behind bars since 1996 and wishes to meet with other humanists who share his views. His records indicate that he is Islamic, but he has requested that officials change his religious affiliation to note that he is rather a secular humanist.

However, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety does not include humanism or atheism in its list of recognized religions, as it does not view adherents as being a part of a religious group.

Reasons for rejecting Teague’s request have included notations that humanism “appears to be a philosophy of life, a free way of thinking” as opposed to a form of religious worship, that it does not draw from a single source for direction, but is rather based on “individual belief” on how one can live for the “greater good” of humanity, and that humanists “do not believe in a deity, but drew from a Christian way of thinking on how to treat their fellow man.”

Teague disagrees that these factors should disqualify humanists from being recognized. He says that while atheism and humanism are not theistic, they are still “equivalent to a religion.”

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“Whereas atheism is a religious view that essentially addresses only the specific issue of the existence of a deity, the humanism affirmed by Teague is a broader worldview that includes, in addition to a non-theistic view on the question of deities, an affirmative naturalistic outlook; an acceptance of reason, rational analysis, logic, and empiricism as the primary means of attaining truth; an affirmative recognition of ethical duties; and a strong commitment to human rights,” AHA’s complaint read.

It also argued that humanism has a similar structure to religion because it utilizes clergy members known as “celebrants” to officiate ceremonies, and observes special days, such as Darwin Day.

On Thursday, Judge Boyle concluded that the Department violated the Establishment Clause to the U.S. Constitution in declining to recognize humanism as a religion, since “DPS has recognized other faith groups, such as American Indian, Wicca, Hinduism, Asatru, Rastafarianism, and Buddhism, which also lack a centralized head or the
formal structure or hierarchy of other religions.”

“The record … reflects that DPS prison officials expressed skepticism and bias toward humanism because it did not have a ‘religious tone’ and its members ‘did not believe in a deity,'” he wrote. “Defendants, additionally, have not set forth any evidence to support space, resource, or security concerns applicable to humanist inmates, which do not apply equally to Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Wiccan inmates.”

“Rather, on record before the court, DPS’s arbitrary decision to recognize some faith groups, and not humanism, fostered an excessive government entanglement with religion,” Boyle stated. “For these reasons, the court concludes that DPS violated both the second and third factors of the Lemon test and, therefore, the Establishment Clause.”

He ruled that since other non-theistic groups deemed to be religious have been allowed to meet, humanist inmates have wrongfully been “treated differently.”

Boyle consequently ordered the Department to “recognize humanism as a faith group and as an assignment option for OPUS and all other prison records, and permit Teague and other humanist inmates to meet in a humanist study group on the same terms defendants authorize for inmates of recognized faith groups.”

Read the ruling in full here.

The Department is currently reviewing the ruling and has not yet made a decision as to whether an appeal will be filed.

Psalm 100:3 says, “Know ye that the Lord, He is God. It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves.”


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  • Reason2012

    Well then, time to remove the “faith” of secularism from our schools, since this judge has now claimed it’s another religion.

    • 1PierreMontagne1

      Humanism always was another religion nothing new with this judgement – Humanism is just the worship of man instead of God.
      And n Government there is no separation of Man and State – Humanism is the only Leftist belief system permitted by leftists. Today’s majority secular Christians will hardly care as they already embrace it. Where are significant Christian protests or mass demonstrations by Christians to anything?

      Today you really can’t mobilize Christians unless it’s Rick Warren’s appeasement to Islam or voluntary Christian appeasement and submission to secular society lead by Pastors who excoriate any in the congregation who judge the evil amongst them and who reject true Eldership from seniors in the congregation.

      Why was nothing said when churches turned to recent teenagers and called them youth pastors and decided those with the least life experience would mentor those with no life experience.? That was when the secular humanist versions of Christians took over our Bible colleges decades ago. There was a revolution in the Church back in the 80’S and Elder ship was rejected – the two parents working family, they were to busy to invest time and left it to youth mentoring youth at weekly meetings focused on a good time with little time for rubber meeting the road bible study.

      Today North America’s churches are predominantly Forms of Godliness practitioners as warned of in 2nd Timothy 3. But who really follows Paul’s Church instructions? Today’s “Red Letter Churches” have instead claimed to focus only on Jesse’s words and reject the “Judgmental and Misogynist” Pauline Gospels except for those portions that directly quote Christ.
      Today’s pastors actually graduate without ever having studied the entire Bible! Little wonder they don’t debate Muslim Immam’s who have memorized both the Koran and the Bible.

  • Nidalap

    Yep. Common sense has become so rare that it can be classified as a superpower now…

  • Ben Welliver

    Secular humanism is now the state religion.
    Not officially, but in practice.

  • james blue

    Humanism (separate from atheism) isn’t a religion, it’s a philosophy. However it should have (actually it does have) the same 1st amendment rights as religions.

    Atheism isn’t a religion or a philosophy. It starts and ends with the denial of the existence of any deity. There is nothing beyond that as a tenet of atheism.

    • XaurreauX

      Atheism is a philosophical position regarding belief, in this case, the lack of belief in a god. It is not nor is it intended to be a belief system, a set of ethical values or a truth claim. Atheists can hold any number of philosophical, scientific and political positions.

  • Susan Perelka

    Gods Word says that anyone who says, there is no God, does nothing good, not one. We see the truth of His Word being acted out before our very eyes. As our culture rejects God more and more, look how they have done more and more evil. They call evil -good, and good -evil. God is not mocked, what they sow, they shall reap. There is a day of judgement coming when God will winnow out the wheat (believers) from the chaff (unbelievers). The wheat will go into His barn (His Kingdom) and the chaff will be burned (weeping and gnashing of teeth). Just as in Noah’s day, so shall be the coming of the Son of Man. This time, He will be coming not as a gentle lamb, but a roaring lion to judge what man has done with his time under the sun. ALL will stand before Him on that day of judgement, ALL will come before Him. The question is, will you receive Grace or Condemnation? His Kingdom or Hell? Either Jesus has taken Gods wrath, for your sin, on the cross and you will enter Gods rest, OR you yourself will feel Gods wrath for your sin against Him, the sin of unbelief, rebellion against the Creator of ALL, you instead wanted to be your own god. All have been given the ability to choose. Choose wisely, why Gods gift of Redemption through Jesus is still available to you. When you die, your fate is sealed, how did you choose? You will reap the consequence of it for eternity. Today, accept the gift God is offering through Jesus, do not harden your heart. You do not know whether or not you have tomorrow. This is the most important decision you will ever make in your entire life. Selah- pause and think about that.

  • MCrow

    There are religious humanists, but they are distinct from secular humanists. At it’s core, humanism is a philosophy which some expand into a religion while others keep it as merely a part of their own worldview. I even know people of faith who consider themselves humanists

  • XaurreauX

    Secularism is for grownups.