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Ethical Individualists have no ethical obligation to obey the laws of the State, though they usually do. POF 9.12  If they were to end up in prison, to pass the time they would likely want to start a Philosophy Of Freedom study group. Would they have that right?

Religious right to study
Inmates of a prison approved “religion” have special rights such as the right to have weekly classroom/study time, access to study materials and the right to congregate with other members of their group. Simply put, if you said you were religious, you got a number of perks not afforded to non-religious groups.

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Humanist denied right to study
Prisoner Jason Holden was prohibited from starting a Humanist study group because Humanism was not on the list of accepted religions, so he sued the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Ruling favors rights of Humanist
The Federal Bureau of Prisons agreed to give inmates who identify as Humanists the same type of accommodations it provides to those who practice a religion. A settlement was reached and Humanism was added to the prison manual broadening the meaning of religion to include other inmate beliefs and practices.

In his 2014 ruling the judge wrote, “the Supreme Court said that the government must not aid those religions based on a belief in the existence of God as against those religions founded on different beliefs…Therefore, the court finds that Secular Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes.”

While it is unfortunate that the only manner in which these rights can be protected is under the umbrella of “religion,” this is nonetheless a significant victory for science, reason, and non-religious ethics.

Ethical Individualism is a humanist philosophy of life
The ruling was a victory for Ethical Individualism since it is a philosophy of life that fits in the Humanist designation. The source of its ethics is human thought, not the supernatural or God,

“A moral act is never explained by tracing it back to some continuous supernatural influence (a divine government), or to historical revelation (the giving of the ten commandments) or to the appearance of God (Christ) on earth. Moral causes must be looked for in the human being, who is the bearer of morality.” POF 12.8

"The ethical laws which the Metaphysician regards as issuing from a higher power are human thoughts; the ethical world order is the free creation of human beings.” POF 10.8

Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population
An extensive 2015 survey by the Pew Research Center shows the Christian share of the US population is sharply declining while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing. As theistic religion is replaced by an ethics whose source is the free human being, society will need to recognize the rights of a broader range of worldviews and philosophies.

Reference: Rachel Ford

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© Tom Last 2017