Atheist wins lawsuit over being sent back to prison for refusing religious-based drug rehab program

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Friendly memo to those of faith: Please stop telling atheists to participate in religious meetings and/or activities, and atheists won't insist that you stop believing in your god.

In today's Los Angeles Times there is an article about an atheist parolee in California who was sent back to prison after Just Saying No to being forced to undergo drug rehab at a religious-based treatment center. The court decision was unanimous:

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said a jury should award Barry A. Hazle Jr., a drug offender, compensatory damages for his loss of freedom and could consider possible punitive and emotional distress damages as well.

The appeals court also ordered a district judge in Sacramento to reconsider whether to issue an injunction to prevent California officials from requiring parolees to attend treatment programs that emphasize God or a “higher power.”

Hazle had served time, but then California ordered him to spend 90 days in a 12-step program. He requested a secular program instead, but he was told such a thing didn't exist, and he resisted the religious version.

The treatment center said that Hazle was disruptive “in a congenial way.” See? He was a nice disrupter. A friendly disrupter. As his reward for being Mr. Congeniality, his parole was revoked and he was sent back to the pokey for 100 more days.

What's an affable disrupter to do? Sue, of course. And a federal court ruled in his favor saying that his constitutional rights were violated. The judge ordered a jury to come up with monetary damages, and they awarded him-- wait for it-- zero. Zilch. Nada.

So now another jury will be convened to determine Hazle’s compensation.


  • GottaLaff

    Many thanks. I know it's hard : )

  • dballance

    Thanks. I'll try to be more brief. Some times that is difficult.

  • Monster

    Agree with all the above with this provisio. It worked. Haven't had a drink in 23 years. Looks like the cancer will get me before I slip again. It does work, even if it is bullshit.

  • matthewcarmody

    Christianity is the only religion assiduously recruiting via TV, whether it's the Mormons or the group touting "This religious thing is real, it must be real" bullshit, the Christian right would never sit idly by if Qu'rans were being pushed via TV spots or if people were invited to visit their local mosque during Ramadan. And Muslims aren't pushing magical beliefs either.

  • GottaLaff

    Ashley, please read our Guidelines.

    One can vocalize one's thoughts more succinctly and civilly. As we've stated here a million times, long, drawn-out comments deter others from reading/commenting.

    We've been doing this a long time and we hear from our readers a lot, privately and publicly. We know what works here and what doesn't.

  • Ashley

    What's the point of having a conversation if you can't vocalize your thoughts in entirety?

  • GottaLaff

    Dballance: I will say to you what I said to Mark and everyone else. Please read our guidelines and shorten your comments. Thank you.


    Christianity is the most factionalized religion on the planet, nothing else even comes close. And yet......its adherents seem to be utterly convinced that there is no possibility their particular version could be wrong.

  • Z54

    You really have to hand it to those christian's. An all powerful, all knowing and all seeing deity, who still insists that one of his most devoted followers should prove his love for him by sacrificing his son! You can't make this stuff up, . . . or can you? No wonder this country is circling the drain!

  • dballance

    There is absolutely no scientific evidence that 12-step programs are effective. NONE. No falsifiable studies, no peer-reviewed literature. No medical proof. NONE,
    NONE, NONE. No more proof than the ex-gay treatments that are now, wisely,
    being outlawed in many places.

    What really happens in 12-step programs is that addicts replace the substance
    addiction with addiction to the treatment. They replace their addiction to a
    substance with the addiction to attending meetings and confessing their wrongs.
    That’s not a cure for addiction.

    It is a simple behavior modification. They are not cured as addicts. They simply
    substitute one addiction for another.

    They are never freed from addiction. The 12-step programs tell you that straight
    out. "Once and Addict, Always an Addict" they will tell you. One can never be cured. It doesn't serve the model of the 12-step programs to ever cure anyone. No need for self-reliance, instead, a constant dependency upon a “sponsor.”

    A “sponsor.” What a wicked thing to inflict upon another and require of some one to serve. It’s not enough that one can admit to some addiction. No, one must constantly be counseled by another person who has no more qualification for being a counselor than sharing addiction and being able to set it aside, at least for a time.

    I can only wonder how many sponsors ended up in a bar with their alcoholic “sponsee” throwing down drinks or in a back room with their drug-addled sponsee snorting lines of power, or how many ex-gay people ended up in bed with their sponsee. If there were accurate statistics on such things I’m willing to bet they’d be
    shocking to some and no surprise to most.

    What other disease in our world would we be satisfied with only by our treatments of
    the symptoms and never advance a cure? Such other debilitating diseases as
    cancer? HIV? MS? Alzheimer's? Dementia?

    No,we would not be satisfied, nor are we satisfied, with treating only the
    symptoms of such debilitating diseases. Yet, here we are in the 21st century
    telling people to give their lives over to a "higher-power" because
    they do not have control over themselves. Not helping them cure themselves, not
    to devoid themselves of disease. No, we tell them that they cannot be cured
    and, instead, their disease will consume all their life if they do not abide by
    giving up control of their lives to some imagined "higher-power."

    One doesn't really have free will according to their model. One must submit to some
    mythical, magical "higher power." One can never really control oneself without the constant help and support of others. It's a self-perpetuating dogma.

    Does it have results? Yes, it has results. The results are clear. There are many
    people who have put aside their addictions to substances in favor of addiction
    to the program. They have supplanted substance abuse with psychological abuse.
    They have taken on the cause with the fervor of their former addiction.

    So they’re clean and in a better place you say? How so? If I have simply replaced
    my actions of ignoring my health, family and friends through the abuse of substances and, instead, turned that into a crusade how is that good? How is it good if I take all the internal things that were, and still are, wrong with me and turn them into some self-serving ideal of helping others through my supposed overcoming of addiction?

    As an automaton of the 12-step programs am I really any more “there” for my family
    and friends? Sure, I’m there now in the family photos without having to be propped up and with no glassy eyes or slurs. Sure, I’m there and breathing. But am I alive? Am I better because I can spend a few hours playing patty-cake with my nieces and nephews? Is my selfish addiction gone?

    Or, did I just substitute one self-serving addiction for another?

  • Bose

    It's extremely important to remember that there are strongly evidence-based alternatives to the 12 Steps. Leading the way is SMART Recovery (Self Management And Recovery Training) which follows well-researched cognitive-behavioral methods.

    The 12 steps have been a powerful tradition and social movement by and for people with substance abuse and addiction issues, but it's a tradition and movement that has been unhelpful for many.

    It still defies explanation for me that so many voices -- and facilities -- in the U.S. substance abuse and addiction treatment cling to their status as 12-step purists, tolerating no alternatives and making few (if any) referrals of the folks for whom the 12 steps have not worked to other providers.

    I lost my ex-partner to his alcoholism, a bright guy who knew the programs he'd participated in to the letter for at least 15 years. He desperately needed options by the time he hit a decade with a remarkably consistent pattern of a 2-5 day binge followed by 4-10 weeks of abstinence.

    Instead, he twisted the concept of powerlessness to mean that a binge, once started, had to be left alone to run its course. No matter how much that wasn't the intent of the treatment he got over and over again, it struck me as clearly ridiculous that the powerlessness/higher-power was suddenly going to "take" in year 10, or 12 or 15 in a new and unexpected way compared to the dozen-plus treatment episodes and hundreds of peer-support meetings that had come before.