You have all seen examples of the creationist claim that atheism (which to them includes evolution) is a religion. We’ve written about it a few times, e.g.: Ken Ham: A Collection of Creationist Clichés, and also Rev. David Rives: Evolution is a Religion.
Now they’ll have even more ammunition for making that silly claim. In the UK’s Daily Mail (of all places) we read Federal prisons agree to recognize humanism as a religion so that inmates can celebrate Darwin Day. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Federal prisoners who identify as humanist can now celebrate Darwin Day and get accommodations typically afforded to those inmates who believe in a deity. The federal Bureau of Prisons agreed in the settlement of a lawsuit to add a section on humanism to its manual on inmate beliefs and practices. Officials in the prison system will also consider requests from humanist inmates for access to study materials, observance of holy days, and time and space for religious activities.
That’s the same case we wrote about last November in Court Rules Atheism Is a Religion?, so it’s not really news. But now that it’s back in the headlines, the creationists will be all over it. You can read the court’s opinion here: American Humanist Association et al v. Bureau of Prisons et al . Okay, let’s return to the Daily Mail:
Inmate Jason Michael Holden and the American Humanist Association filed the lawsuit last year, saying Holden and other humanist prisoners were prohibited from forming a study group at a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon. The settlement was reached earlier this month, and the association announced the settlement in a news release issued on Monday.
That news release is probably what triggered the press coverage. Let’s read on:
‘There’s not much to talk about in respect to just atheism,’ Holden’s attorney, Monica Miller, said by phone from Washington, D.C. ‘It’s really about what you do believe, and what those worldviews are and what those philosophies are.’ The settlement comes a little more than a year after the U.S. Army added humanist to its list of religious preferences.
The Army too? When your Curmudgeon was an Army reserve officer, long ago, aside from the usual denominations, the only other choice one could indicate was “No preference.” We continue:
It is unknown how many inmates identify as humanist. But giving them the ability to choose that preference, and to have it entered in the federal prison database, will allow the number to be calculated.
Holden has been imprisoned since an armed robbery in Washington state more than a decade ago. He explained in a May 2014 interview with Uptown Radio that not all atheists — such as those who are white supremacists — are humanists. ‘As humanists, we believe in the ability of mankind to transcend their differences and find some common ground, you know, make the world a better place,’ he said.
We’ve never paid attention to Humanism, but we never before heard that it had any connection to Darwin Day. Anyway, it’s nice to learn that a man convicted of armed robbery is interested in making the world a better place. Here’s more:
Under the settlement, Holden can maintain the group as long as there are at least two like-minded prisoners, and the option will be afforded to humanist prisoners elsewhere. Darwin Day is celebrated February 12, the birthdate of Charles Darwin. Those who observe the day use it to highlight science. Miller said the inmates could perhaps watch a video to mark the occasion and have some type of snack.
Why is any of this important? Because the creationists will use it to claim that the courts now recognize humanism (and atheism and evolution) as a religion. They’ll say that if they can’t teach creationism in the public schools, then we shouldn’t be allowed to teach evolution — because like creationism, it’s also a religion. Suddenly, they’ll become advocates of separation of church and state — as long as they can use that concept to attack science.
Yes, it’s crazy. But remember, we’re dealing with creationists, so craziness is to be expected.
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