March 2016 Church & State - March 2015

AU Calls For Secular Advisors In Calif.

  AU admin

Americans United is urging prison officials in California to ensure that death-row inmates who are not religious have access to secular counselors.

In a January letter to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, AU State Legislative Counsel Amrita Singh noted that non-religious inmates must be treated the same as religious ones.

“Policies that permit inmates access to clergy but do not offer non-theist inmates access to a secular advisor, however, raise constitutional concerns,” Singh wrote.

Singh’s comments are in response to a proposed amendment to regulations governing who may visit inmates who have been moved to secure housing ahead of a scheduled execution. Currently, only attorneys may visit inmates immediately prior to execution. The amendment would expand this privilege to include spiritual advisors, but it makes no accommodation for non-religious inmates.

Americans United says this policy, if adopted, would violate the rights of inmates who may be atheist, agnostic or Humanist; AU urged that it be altered.

“Accordingly, the department should either (1) explicitly create an accommodation for visitors for both religious and non-religious inmates awaiting lethal injection, or (2) amend the definition of ‘spiritual advisor’ to include “spiritual, ethical, or moral, advice, assistance, or guidance,” Singh concluded.


Americans United & the National Women’s Law Center file suit to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans.

Abortion bans violate the separation of church and state. Americans United and the National Women’s Law Center—the leading experts in religious freedom and gender justice—have joined forces with thirteen clergy from six faith traditions to challenge Missouri’s abortion bans as unconstitutionally imposing one narrow religious doctrine on everyone.

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