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Freethought Today · October 2017

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

South Dakota prison gets freethought books

FFRF just made another 11-book donation to a freethought prison group. This time it's to the newly formed Secular Humanist Study Group at Mike Durfee State Prison in South Dakota.

FFRF has now donated a total of 44 freethought books to four different correctional centers in the United States.

FFRF first wrote to the South Dakota Department of Corrections in May 2014 about an inmate who was seeking to form this group within the South Dakota State Penitentiary system. At least four project applications later, after additional letters from FFRF in 2015 and 2016, and after the inmate's transfer to the Mike Durfee State Prison, his Secular Humanist Study Group was ultimately approved in May 2017. The group had four members at its first meeting in June, but the group has been growing rapidly since then — after being allowed to advertise its meetings — and it had 15 members participate at its most recent meeting in mid-August.

The Secular Humanist Study Group at the prison has been given a one-hour weekly time slot for group meetings in a small classroom. It has been allowed to establish two official secular holidays, which it will observe with special meals on Feb. 12 (for the birthday of Charles Darwin) and Sept. 17 (in honor of the signing of the U.S. Constitution). It has also been designated a group account to which money can be donated for group events and the purchasing of reading materials.

"I need to thank both FFRF and Associate Attorney Sam Grover for all the time and energy spent helping establish a secular humanist study group in the South Dakota state prison system," the inmate writes. "I would also like to thank Dan Barker and Sam for the contribution of books for our group library.

"Unfortunately, as much as I would love to beg for books to build up our library, we are only allowed to receive financial contributions for the group, and that leaves me feeling uncomfortable."

He wrote back a few weeks later to update FFRF on the book donations. He said two of the books have to be returned because the illustrations are "not sufficiently prude enough."