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.