Atheist Wins Establishment Challenge to Faith-Based Treatment Program

There is an important ruling out of Redding where a federal judge has ruled that California violated the rights of Barry Hazle Jr.,40, by punishing him for refusing to participate in a religious drug treatment program. It is a rare ruling in favor of an atheist under the Establishment Clause.

Hazle declined to participate in a 12-step treatment program at Empire Recovery Center. Notably, in 2008, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in late 2008 declared that placing parolees in religious-based drug treatment programs is unconstitutional when objected to on religious grounds. In 2007, the 9th Circuit ruled that such compelled participation was unconstitutional for a Hawaiian Buddhist. Ricky Inouye, an amphetamine addict, succeeded in challenging participation in Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous (AA/NA) meetings as a condition of his parole. However, here a court has ruled that an atheist has the same grounds for objection — a long overdue ruling.

What will be interesting is if other federal courts follow suit. This would throw into question many of the Bush-era faith-based programs. Obama has expanded on such faith-based programs, which could now be curtailed (at least to the extent that they are mandatory and have a religious component in the specific program).

For the full story, click here.

17 thoughts on “Atheist Wins Establishment Challenge to Faith-Based Treatment Program”

  1. I see some of the posters here have already bought the snake oil and drank the kool-aid like the Michael P Byrne posts defend the inconsistencies and confusion about the literature.
    It is very clear when the judges read the literature, and came across one of the founders statements about “find god or die” and than what is written plain and clear “may you find him now” and the word god in capital letters as a proper noun. “To the courts, this only means one thing”
    12 step programs have become “religions in denial” and therefore, an arm of the government, had no business forcing a citizen to participate in a religious-based programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
    I thank real, open-minded people for showing me that more current 100 percent evidence based treatment program alternatives such as CBT models are most effective without being “churched”.
    Than the fact if you buy the disease concept, If I had a doctor prescribe a 75 year old hit or miss outdated treatment, I would run the other way, fast

  2. Gossegatha,

    I’ll bite. Explain how my point makes me gullible. To the rest of it, addiction is addiction. That stands regardless of how benign the addiction is.

  3. Gossegotha
    Sorry, but you are wrong on the fundamental point that it, “is required”…all ideas in the 12 step programs I am aware of are “suggested only”. A lot of folks take the higher power stuff to heart but many also go for the common sense strategies laid out in the literature..the only requirement for membership in any 12 step program is a desire to stop drinking or drugging or gambling or what ever your addiction is…thanks Michael P Byrne

  4. Buddha–amen.

    Gyges–if you can’t see the qualitative difference between a life spent addicted to a chemical toxin and a life spent addicted to a higher power, I have some real estate I’d like you to consider.

    Michael Byrne–while I agree the 12 steps can be very loose, they do require one submit to a higher power than oneself, which is precisely a religious requirement. The state cannot compel a person to submit to a higher power even if the person gets to choose how to conceive of that higher power, any more than the state can compel a person to get married and justify doing so by leaving the choice of spouse up to the person.

  5. Gyges,

    To answer your question, is the drop rate between sobriety and relapse depends upon the dedication of the individual.

    I appreciate your humor. I had a friend in Austin that every time he lit up he was looking for god….he spent 15 years in TDOC for 20 pounds. He was the Grandson of a family that owns (maybe owned) banks. Not even that could help him in the county that he was busted in.

  6. Now, this subject burns my tail…I understand that there are at least 10 or 12 states ( probably more ) that have deemed 12step programs a religion. Any body who knows anything about 12 step programs based on the Bill and Bob protocol understand that everything from the literature concerning recovery is “suggested” and not doctrine. The meetings are unlike any church or place of worship, I ever went to as a kid, although there a lot of meetings that take place at houses of worship. I guess they are open minded enough to keep the doors open, lest someone actually gets help from a 12 step program. This gentleman has his right to refuse the offer by the judge, but before he leapt he could have taken a closer look at the refreshingly open mindedness available in the literature. There is a chapter devoted to the non believers. But even if there wasn’t, the whole concept of the 12 steps, is “suggested” as a way to get clean and sober. Yes many folks chose the higher power or god route, but there are also many, (like me) who do not and have gotten great satisfaction out of the “suggested” path. I will say that sometimes I really have to hold my tongue when I see a certain meeting co-opted by a religious group, but then I just look in the meeting guide and find another place to go…These 12 step programs are not religious they are spiritual in nature and there is a huge distinction…Thankyou Michael P Byrne
    PS I do not in anyway speak for the anonymous 12 step programs out there, these are strictly my opinions and my opinions alone

  7. That should read “Buddha plus two” but apparently the plus sign is now stripped from comments as spam. New math and everything.

  8. @Gyges:

    “I wonder how many people in those programs go from addicted to alcohol to addicted to the idea of a higher power.”

    In my experience with a few of the AA/NA folks, the answer would be “all of them”.

  9. I wonder how many people in those programs go from addicted to alcohol to addicted to the idea of a higher power.

  10. I will stipulate that I believe the principles and precepts of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence to be sound judgment in choice of operating methodology and a firm basis for liberty when properly and equally applied.

  11. Nice Constitutionally valid precedent.

    It needs to be built upon until there isn’t a single faith-based anything funded by the government.

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