Recall the story of Barry Hazle Jr., a man convicted for possession of meth back in 2007:
Barry A. Hazle Jr., 46, served time for a conviction of methamphetamine possession in 2007. As a condition of his parole, he was enrolled in a drug treatment program where participants were required to acknowledge a “higher power,” according to the Sacramento Bee.
Hazle complained and asked for a different treatment program, but was told the only option in his area was the faith-based, Westcare 12-step program, according to the Record Searchlight.
Hazle was sent back to jail for more than three months for allegedly being “disruptive, though in a congenial way, to the staff as well as other students” and being “sort of passive-aggressive,” the paper reported.
While our prison system is allowed, even encouraged to rehabilitate prisoners, prisons and their employees are still a part of the government and the government can’t use its authority to endorse religion. That’s exactly what it’s doing here under the guise of rehabilitation (especially since 12-step programs don’t work). So work to rehabilitate inmates. Go nuts. No sensible person, myself included, opposes this. Get people like Hazle of Meth. But forcing them into a situation where they have to nod to religion is not rehabilitating, it’s violating their rights.
Hazle subsequently filed a lawsuit and, unsurprisingly, won. But the jury didn’t award him any compensation for the three months he spent in prison essentially because he wouldn’t lie about his beliefs regarding a higher power. In short, winning the lawsuit looked exactly like losing the lawsuit. The message was that he was wronged by the government, but suck it up.
The 9th Circuit has now said that’s not acceptable…to the tune of nearly two million dollars:
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals then threw out the decision. In a unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel said Hazle was entitled to compensation.
“The jury’s verdict, which awarded Hazle no compensatory damages at all for his loss of liberty, cannot be upheld,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the court’s opinion. “The jury simply was not entitled to refuse to award any damages for Hazle’s undisputable — and undisputed — loss of liberty, and its verdict to the contrary must be rejected.”
The state of California will pay Hazle $1 million, while Westcare will pay $925,000under terms of the settlement, according to KRCR-TV.
If people acknowledge god it needs to be their choice free of coercion (beyond the usual threats of hell issued by the faithful for noncompliance) not a compunction of the government. That’s a real and transparent threat to religious liberty. So you know exactly who will wonder what the big deal is: the same people who are always pissing and moaning about how religious liberty is under attack in this country.