West Virginia told an atheist to participate in Christian "programming" in prison if he wanted to be eligible for parole. A federal judge told them to stop.

A federal judge in West Virginia ruled this week that the state cannot force an atheist incarcerated there to attend religious programming to be eligible for parole. Andrew Miller was given a 1-to-10 year indeterminate sentence for breaking and entering and would could get out early only if he signed up for worship posed as a recovery program. The course featured Christian reading materials, recitals of the Serenity and Lord's Prayer, and required further participation in other religion-"infused" meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. A book the course is based on states that atheists and agnostics are "doomed to alcoholic death" unless they "seek Him."

In a sweeping 60-page decision issued Tuesday, Charleston-based U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Goodwin said Saint Marys Correctional Center inmate Andrew Miller "easily meets his threshold burden of showing an impingement on his rights."

The state's "unmitigated actions force Mr. Miller to choose between two distinct but equally irreparable injuries," the judge wrote. He can either "submit to government coercion and engage in religious exercise at odds with his own beliefs," or "remain incarcerated until at least April 2025."

Consider how far the rug had already been pulled, with all the compulsory Christianity in prison until someone made a fuss.