Thursday, March 30, 2006

No Damages Awarded In "Atheism Is A Religion" Case

Last August, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that atheism qualified as a religion for a prisoner who wished to form a study group while incarcerated. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is currently revising its policies to reflect this holding. Now, on remand of the case, a Wisconsin federal district court has granted prison officials summary judgment and dismissed plaintiff's claim for damages. In Kaufman v. Witch, (WD Wis., March 24, 2006), the court accepted prison officials' defense of qualified immunity because, in light of pre-existing Establishment Clause precedents, the unlawfulness of their original decision refusing to treat atheism as a "religion" was not apparent to them.