What Price Sobriety? Atheist Prisoner Challenges Mandatory Religious Program

A California prisoner, Barry A. Hazle Jr., 40, is challenging a condition of his release from prison after a year on drug possession: mandatory drug treatment. It is not the drug treatment idea that bothers Hazle, it is the religiosity of the program. Hazle is an atheist and would like a program that does not require his commitment to both sobriety and God.

The computer technician has repeatedly objected to the 12-step program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. He wants to be clean. He just doesn’t want to be saved.

He may have a point. It is not clear how the state can compel such participation – anymore than it can compel regular church going. The state may have an obligation to find non-religious alternative.

For the full story, click here and here.

28 thoughts on “What Price Sobriety? Atheist Prisoner Challenges Mandatory Religious Program”

  1. Well Rob, although I will defer you may be the only one of the two of us requiring particpation in an alcohol rehabilitation program, I’m not so sure you should consider your participation in the program, complete.

    At least that would explain why you didn’t take the time to read the story, or any of the information about the organization which you support.

    If you bother to read the story which outlines the details of the lawsuit, you’d have seen this;

    The 12-step program required “acknowledgment of the existence of a supernatural God,….deference to a monotheistic ‘higher power,’ and participation in prayer.

    And if you bother to do a little research on the organization yourself, you’d see that the concept of a “God” which they permit their members to refer to as a “higher being”, as you pointed out, is the cornerstone of their program. In fact, meetings include prayer, and the founders of AA consider themselves “Servants of God”.

    This is a religious group, and this man being an A-THEIST (think A-THEO hence “without God”) had a right to not be forced to attend a program developed and maintained by religious people where constant talk of God, higher powers, etc abound, and where prayer is integral component of the program.

    The concept of God is dotted throughout their publications and phamplets and it is common knowledge to everyone apparently except you.

    You might try their website.

    All Mr Hazle asked was to be transferred to a NON religious program, and he was thrown in jail instead.

    Which of course if you’d read the Constitution then you’d know violates his rights not to have religious belief of any kind compelled upon him by an act of law.

    This case is a solid one, and he should win if the Constitution is still in effect.

  2. Seems like there is very little understanding of AA, NA and their 12-steps here. I think it is called “contempt before investigation.” In most AA meetings there IS NO religious doctrine at all. We speak of a higher power being “one of your own conception” and many times it is AA’s experience itself that is one’s higher power, no deity, no big man in the sky.

    Plenty of atheists get sober in AA…and stay atheists.

  3. Mespo,

    “I’ll see your John Locke and raise you a Jefferson”

    That was a good one. I think one of my fav Jefferson quotes is where he confesses the sources of the Declaration.

    He claims to have relied on “neither book nor pamphlet” so I guess the lessons he learned from Locke were so self-evident it was almost as if he was plagiarizing at times.

  4. The war on drugs only appears nonsensical if one persists wrongly naming it as “the war on drugs”.

    Try calling it “the war on niggers and poor people” and its results look much more impressive.

    Opponents of the war on drugs who see the damage done as unintended side effects fail to recognize that race and class based malice is the major driver. It is time to recognie that many drug war proponents are the present day equivalents of the post medieval witch and heretic burners.

  5. That was a very interesting discussion on the “war on drugs”. There are probably thousands in prisons around the country due to possession of and sale of marijuana. Just imagine the tax money that the country has missed with the leafy material being illegal. If it had been legal and taxed, I believe society would have been better off. I guess we will never know because I do not see any major changes to this inept policy any time soon.

  6. mespo727272
    1, October 6, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    “The Major Pharmacuticals and Organized Crime.”

    Care to differentiate the groups. Betcha can’t!!


    One is a group of seedy unscrupulous moneygrubbing thugs, and the other group was portrayed on the Emmy award winning show, the Sopranos?

  7. Bob:

    I’ll see your John Locke and raise you a Jefferson:

    “Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.” –Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1819.

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