On Friday, the 9th Circuit Court (the same body that declared “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional in Michael Newdow‘s case) declared:
“… requiring a parolee to attend religion-based treatment programs violates the First Amendment… While we in no way denigrate the fine work of (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), attendance in their programs may not be coerced by the state.”
It’s no surprise that AA is a religious organization.
San Francisco Chronicle reporter Bob Egelko writes:
The 12 steps required for participants in both programs include an acknowledgment that “a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” and a promise to “turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” They also call for prayer and meditation.
The ruling was on behalf of the late Ricky Inouye, a practicing Buddhist. Inouye was in prison on drug-related charges and was paroled in November of 2000. His parole officer “ordered him to attend a Salvation Army treatment program that included participation in Narcotics Anonymous meetings.” After showing up but refusing to participate, and then dropping out of the program, Inouye was sent back to prison in November of 2001. After his release in 2003, he sued his parole officer as well as others for “violating his constitutional rights.”
He died since the lawsuit began and his son, Zenn Inouye, is taking over on his behalf. The 9th Circuit Court’s ruling allows the case to go to trial.
… the appeals court said [parole officer Mark] Nanamori should have known in 2001 that coerced participation in a religion-based program was unconstitutional because eight state and federal courts had ruled on the issue by then and all had agreed that a parolee has a right to be assigned to a secular treatment program.
An excellent ruling. I don’t have an issue with AA/NA being offered as an option for people with alcohol/drug problems. But there should be other secular alternatives for them as well.
You can read the court’s ruling here (PDF).
[tags]atheist, atheism, Alcoholics Anonymous, Mark Nanamori, prison, drugs, methamphetamines[/tags]