"Court Rules Atheism A Religion
Decides 1st Amendment protects prison inmate's right to start study group
Published: 08/20/2005 at 1:00 AM
A federal court of appeals ruled yesterday Wisconsin prison officials violated an inmate’s rights because they did not treat atheism as a religion.
"Atheism is [the inmate's] religion
, and the group that he wanted to start was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being," the 7th Circuit Court Of Appeals
The court decided the inmate’s First Amendment rights were violated because the prison refused to allow him to create a study group for atheists.
Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, called the court’s ruling "a sort of Alice in Wonderland jurisprudence."
"Up is down, and atheism, the antithesis of religion, is religion
," said Fahling.
The Supreme Court has said a religion need not be based on a belief in the existence of a supreme being. In the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, the court described "secular humanism" as a religion."