A federal appeals court has sided with a Wisconsin prison inmate who claimed his constitutional rights were violated with officials would not allow him to create a study group for atheists.
In it ruling, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Wisconsin prison officials were mistaken when they did not recognize atheism as a religion. The court stated that atheism is inmate's religion and that the group he wished to start “was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being.”
Brian Fahling is an attorney with the American Family Association's Center for Law & Policy. Fahling says the ruling makes no sense.
“Even by the prisoner's own admission, atheism is the antithesis of religion,” the attorney notes, “and so to have the court now give protection to atheism — the enemy of religion, if you will — under a clause designed to protect religion ultimately is absolutely the height of idiocy as far as I'm concerned.”
According to Fahling, the nation's highest court has made such rulings possible.
“The ruling isn't surprising because I think the Supreme Court ultimately has given us an Establishment Clause jurisprudence that is utterly incoherent,” he says. “And to the degree one can gain any coherence from it, that coherence is found in … an acute hostility to religion. And how much more hostile can you get than to give protection of the enemy of religion under a clause designed to protect religion?”
Fahling says it is difficult not be “somewhat jaundiced” about the nation's courts when they take clauses that are intended to protect religion, then “turn them on their head” to protect a belief system not commonly held to be a religion — while at the same time prohibiting public expressions of true religious faith.