Does Mandatory AA/NA Violate the First Amendment?

linkedin
Share on Google+
Share on Reddit
Share on Tumblr

The First Amendment says, in part, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .” There are two religion clauses in the amendment, the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the Free Exercise Clause in relation to G.S. 14-208.18, the law that’s preventing some sex offenders from attending church. Thinking about that issue reminded me of a question I was asked about the Establishment Clause: does it violate the Establishment Clause to require a probationer to attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous?

Three federal circuit courts have held that coerced participation in 12-step programs like AA and NA violates the First Amendment. In Kerr v. Ferry, 95 F.3d 472 (7th Cir. 1996), the Seventh Circuit held that requiring an inmate to attend NA meetings or risk suffering adverse effects for parole eligibility violated the Establishment Clause. The Second Circuit reached a similar conclusion in Warner v. Orange County Department of Probation, 115 F.3d 1068 (2d Cir. 1997), striking a probation condition requiring attendance at AA meetings. And most recently the Ninth Circuit determined that a parolee’s First Amendment rights were violated when his parole officer forced him to attend 12-step meetings as a condition of his parole. Inouye v. Kemna, 504 F.3d 705 (9th Cir. 2007). In the latter two cases the courts found the law sufficiently clearly established to abrogate the officers’ qualified immunity. Qualified immunity shields government officials from liability for civil damages “insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982). In other words, Warner and Inouye were able to go forward with lawsuits against their officers for damages for violation of their constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Numerous federal district courts and state supreme courts have reached the same conclusion.

It’s possible that the Fourth Circuit might rule differently. The judges here continue to apply the Lemon test (derived from Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971)) in Establishment Clause cases, whereas the circuit courts listed above used a slightly different “coercion test.” Mellen v. Bunting, 327 F.3d 355 (4th Cir. 2003); Gray v. Johnson, 436 F. Supp. 2d 795, 800 n. 4 (W.D. Va. 2006) (distinguishing the tests). But given the general march toward unanimity around the country, I generally advise judges (and probation officers, who are really the ones at greatest risk of getting sued) to avoid AA or NA as a mandatory condition of probation. It’s okay to make participation optional. See Gray, 436 F. Supp. 2d at 801 (prison substance abuse program did not run afoul of the Establishment Clause when it made AA and NA participation optional). And it would be permissible to make participation in some type of recovery program mandatory as long as a secular option were available. See O’Connor v. California, 855 F. Supp. 303 (C.D. Cal. 1994) (upholding use of AA/NA as part of a drunk driving sentence when the defendant was given a choice over what program to attend). Examples of secular options include Secular Organizations for Sobriety, LifeRing, Rational Recovery, and SmartRecovery.

Finally, I’ll note that what’s not at issue in these cases is the question of whether AA is, in fact, religion-based. The litigants typically agree that it is, and the courts are unpersuaded by the idea that it’s “spiritual” and not religious. Here are the traditional twelve steps:

1.  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.

2.  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4.  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5.  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6.  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7.  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8.  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9.  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10.  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11.  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His Will for us and the power to carry that out.

12.  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

What do you think?

71 comments on “Does Mandatory AA/NA Violate the First Amendment?

  1. I would say the vast majority of Judges and/or Probation Officers that require Offenders to attend AA/NA meetings as part of their substance abuse treatment program are unaware of the “spiritual” aspects of the program, but are influenced by it’s long standing reputation as an effective, community based program that is free of charge and available virtually every day of the week at some location that is convenient for the Offender. I would think that as long as Judges and Officers put, “Attend AA/NA or other approved community based substance abuse counseling program.” on the order, this should resolve the issue of liability.

  2. Probation/Parole officers are bound by the courts. So, if the sentencing judge orders that an offender attend AA/NA we as officers are required to send the offender to AA/NA. Some treatment agencies require the offender to attend AA/NA as a condition of the treatment process. Usually as a follow up program. If the Probation officers and Judges are liable and can possibly be sued for requiring an offender to attend AA/NA then what about the treatment agency/agencies. There is so much media and political involvement in DWI issues that we as court personnel are liable if the offender does not attend required treatment. Where do we cut off the treatment process? Do we take God out of the 12 steps process so as not to offend someone or do we require thet offender to attend AA/NA so we can possibly help the offender to stop drinking and endangering the public. Their is a treatment process and if AA/NA is part of it at this time. It is our job to protect the public and if AA/NA is part of the treatment process and aids in public safety and in improving the health of the offender then I do not see where this should be an issue. Do we offend some who do not like this or do we do our our job and protect and assist the offender?

    • I should have said on the last line of my comment “protect the public” and assist the offender.

    • Don’t you take an oath to protect the innocent and uphold the law? Every single state in the country is secular, as is the nation’s federal level. You don’t have to follow orders which are blatantly illegal in the eyes of the constitutions of the state and nation.

      • ANonymous- dito! and thanks for posting this.

    • We need to remember that AA/NA meetings are not the same as treatment. There is a difference between treatment and recovery so to put the two in the same sentence is false in itself. One of the basis of your 12 step programs is that is it supposed to be voluntary so by mandating this it violates some of the programs basic fundamentals.

    • You are assuming that AA participation is an effective part of the “treatment process,” and therefore will enhance public safety and in improving the health of the offender.” There is no data or evidence that support that AA is effective, and what data is there in the research indicates it can be counter-productive. To suggest opponents of coerced AA participation are attempting to take “God out of AA” is a ridiculous statement; the belief in a “higher power”, and giving one’s will Gods will” are two of the fundamental principles of AA. So no, the argument has nothing to with taking God out of AA, but instead taking mannated AA participation out of the “treatment process”, which is clearly unconstitutional. It is a faith based program, plain and simple. I am not “offended” by this practice, or by use of “God” in any voluntary situation. In fact I strongly support and individuals right to do so. But it cannot be mandated, or the basis for criminal punishment if it is not, anymore than mandating an offender attend a Christian church , or Jewish synagogue, or Wiccan ritual.

      • There is a significant body of peer reviewed research that indicates 12 Step meeting attendance is effective in curbing addictive behaviors. There is even research that indicates coerced participation is as effective as voluntary attendance in extending the benefits of treatment. Google John F. Kelly at the Harvard School of Medicine.

    • Personally, the issue is not whether or not I am “offended” rather, I want the same level of treatment as any religious person might have, also value and appreciate Constitutional rights, and don’t feel it’s the right of the State to force me into classes where I am told to believe in God because I am insane and powerless without Him.

    • Narcotics Anonymous is a 12 step program that has made an effort to encourage atheistic members to alter the program’s principles in order to fit in. While Alcoholics Anonymous only accepts those addicted to alcohol, NA considers alcohol just another drug. Unlike the AA literature, which encourages atheists to abandon their godless ideas, NA’s literature, from the start, has made it clear that atheism is welcome.

  3. I spent many years working with a District Court Judge who was a recovering alcoholic and who would frequently attend as many as 4 to 6 AA meetings per week. This judge often mentioned the availability of AA meetings to defendants but never ordered it as a condition of probation. The courts and treatment programs inherently must approach the utilization of AA differently.

  4. The Judgement for Impaired Driving Offenses has, #11 in SPECIAL CONDITIONS OF PROBATION, “Obtain a substance abuse assessment and all recommended education or treatment”. I have not left any words out. This does not specify that the assessment has to be a DWI assessment. We know that in order to get the NCDL back, the offender has to complete the DWI “school”. Rarely, do I see a Judge specify a DWI assessment and treatment in the #17 block. As the Judge is not filling out the Judgement him/herself (the deputy clerk is the one listening and writing out the Judgement), many Judgements become a document subject to interpretation. A regular condition of probation is that probationers cooperate with the probation officer by answering reasonable inquiries. Would “voluntarily submitting to AA/NA”, in block #17, be too subjective? I have never seen a treatment program require an offender to attend AA/NA. I have however, seen it recommended as an aftercare program.

  5. I agree that as Officers it is our duty to uphold the conditions imposed by the court and agencies (substance abuse, aftercare recommendations) HOWEVER I wish to interject it is ordered that they must ATTEND the program/group. The attendance is what is key and while it is the intent of the court to have the person PARTICIPATE in the group, they are not bound to do so and they are not bound to adopt the principles of the group. As they are not required to speak and/or adopt the principles, I do not believe that the 1st Amendment is applicable here. I believe that as officers, we should be inherently immune from any consequence suffered in enforcing any order of the court. It is our job capacity to enforce ALL the conditions imposed by the court, we do not impose the conditions.

    • Mr. Noto, I think you are missing a particularly important aspect of the first amendment consideration.
      Let us assume that attendance does not require participation in groups like AA/NA. It is accepted that those organizations are in fact religious in nature as stated above. This does not exactly make them equatable with churches as that label acts as a much larger net. Think, however, of an instance where any other kind of forced religious attendance would be permissible. For one without any belief in a higher power, forced attendance would be tantamount to sending them to a Church Service, albeit one slightly reduced in helpful content. Also one might simply hold a particularly different kind of belief system than the one being offered, that of a singular, powerful, well meaning, basically good deity.
      You can force someone to attend traffic school because it educates them about the laws regarding driving. Nowhere does a higher power enter into that education. Those laws are secular in nature. AA/NA and others mix religion and psychological sciences in a dangerous way that is more about shifted dependency than addressing the underlying issues of chemical dependency.

    • For the simple fact that you choose to ignore an individual’s religious beliefs, instead of recognizing that the first amendment inherently provides total and irrevocable relief from said atmosphere, leaves your comment completely devoid of merit. You should excuse yourself from ever participating in a conversation about inalienable rights vs your own personal interpretations of the constitution. Forcing someone to ATTEND A RELIGIOUS PROGRAM is a DIRECT ASSAULT ON THEIR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS. PLAIN AS BLACK AND WHITE. You can twist words as you see fit, you’re still unequivocally WRONG.

      • Narcotics Anonymous is a 12 step program that has made an effort to encourage atheistic members to alter the program’s principles in order to fit in. While Alcoholics Anonymous only accepts those addicted to alcohol, NA considers alcohol just another drug. Unlike the AA literature, which encourages atheists to abandon their godless ideas, NA’s literature, from the start, has made it clear that atheism is welcome.

    • Cheri: Here is a point you must comprehend: Attendance IS participation, period. Being forced to sit in an openly religious event and forced to ignore all that is being said is ludicrous. What would be the point of mandatory attendance at a religious affair like AA if one is expected to stuff cotton in ones ears and close ones eyes in order to avoid the affront of coerced religion? How does that help? Also, you want immunity for any order you are given ( the Gestapo killers said the same thing at Nuremburg), just like cops want a free pass when they obey even obviously illegal ” orders ” from above? What if a judge ordered your probationer to shine shoes for the public or flagellate himself in front of the store he shoplifted from? Would you be Ok enforcing that?

      Blind obedience always causes abuses because the moral outrage one should realize can be blocked by the legal protection immunity affords..just look at how prosecutors slaughter the intent of the law and subvert justice constantly because of absolute immunity..if you would use unConstitutional means to direct a probationer just because some judge was uneducated about the law or morally corrupted enough to demand debasing sentences, then you should be in another line of work…being a rubber stamp for the abuses of others makes you just as bad.

      And the idea of forcing a defendant to choose incarceration over his firmly held religious beliefs, or lack thereof, is morally repugnant and will fail in the higher courts. Most communities do not have secular alternatives to the AA/NA schemes and so judges need to remove any mention of these outfits except as advice, not as a condition.

    • Yes, but if they MUST attend, they are subjected to seriously egregious tactics in an effort to recruit people into the religion of AA. So? Resist! Well, sure. But, that doesn’t change the fact that some will bite. If some will bite, the courts are clearly sending potential converts to the AA rooms and thereby supporting the establishment of a religion. That IS a 1st amendment issue, even if none bite.

      • NA members are comprised of many different religions, as well as atheists. Narcotics Anonymous is a 12 step program that has made an effort to encourage atheistic members to alter the program’s principles in order to fit in. While Alcoholics Anonymous only accepts those addicted to alcohol, NA considers alcohol just another drug. Unlike the AA literature, which encourages atheists to abandon their godless ideas, NA’s literature, from the start, has made it clear that atheism is welcome.

  6. I have recently been ordered to participate in a 12-step program that is based on AA, and as an atheist, I am extremely offended that the judge even considered the idea. I am going to fight this all the way to the supreme court if I have to. What’s extremely important to remember here is that the state CANNOT even SEEM to be endorsing any kind of religious organization, and whether or not individual citizens object on the grounds of a violation of their freedom of religion, there is still a separate and equally valid argument that compelling any person to participate in the activities of a religious organization is a gross violation of the Establishment Clause. I will be seeking an injunction prohibitting judges (in NH, at least) from ordering any individual to participate in AA/NA and all other 12 -step programs based on them. I have the backing of the American Humanist Association, and expect to also have the backing of the American Atheists and the ACLU.

    • Could you please let me of someone to contact on this matter my PO sent me to see a couselor cause there was alcohol in my home its nits supposed to be here It wasnt mine but he had to do his job and sent me to see a couselor I only have 12 months on federal probation left never had no problems no write ups no dirty uas no run ins with the law nothing in fact I was suppose to be released at my half time due to good behavior but didn’t get the chance like everyone else for unknown reasons anyways the counselor put me in a criminal thinking class and after this last class the person teaching made it mandatory to go to one AA meeting a week or we would flunk the class I tried to protest cause I am an atheist but same if I don’t go I fail if I fail I get arrested if I get arrested I lose my job of almost five years I have a family that depends on me for support and we can’t afford me goin away and to top it off were I work does not hire felons anymore so I would have no chance of getting my job back and I have a good job in the oilfield

    • I have recently been kicked out of my treatment because i have refused to attend the mandatory AA meetings. I am expecting to be serving 6 months in jail because of this. how do i go about fighting this?

    • Wow…. really? Give me a break. I attend AA and they’re NOT a religious organization. The 12 steps/traditions/principles state a “HIGHER POWER”… “a god of YOUR understanding”. Maybe if you read the literature instead of worrying so much about the political correctness of it, you’d know this. AA saved my life!

      • Yes. AA IS a religious organization. Look at the quote you chose again: ‘a GOD of your understanding”. Being a non-denominational religion doesn’t mean AA is NOT a religion. It’s impossible to read AA literature and NOT come to the conclusion that GOD is being used as the answer to the problem of alcoholism. GOD = religion. Try a dictionary? Step 3 requires one to turn their will and their lives over to a GOD of their choosing. Turning your will and your life over to a GOD of any kind is a RELIGIOUS TENET that flies in the face of even the religious beliefs of many. “Alcoholics Anonymous materials and the testimony of the witness established beyond a doubt that religious activities, as defined in constitutional law, were a part of the treatment program. The distinction between religion and spirituality is meaningless, and serves merely to confuse the issue.” – Judge John Shabaz, 7th circuit. Calling a dog a cat repeatedly and convincing 10s of thousands of other people to call a dog a cat repeatedly, does not make a dog a cat. “spiritual not religious” is a lie.

        • God is often referred to “Good Orderly Direction” by atheist AAs.

      • How come the “God of Your Understanding” is not allowed to CURE YOU of your addiction in the 12-Step religious AA/NA cult?

    • Narcotics Anonymous is a 12 step program that has made an effort to encourage atheistic members to alter the program’s principles in order to fit in. While Alcoholics Anonymous only accepts those addicted to alcohol, NA considers alcohol just another drug. Unlike the AA literature, which encourages atheists to abandon their godless ideas, NA’s literature, from the start, has made it clear that atheism is welcome.

  7. I have attended AA for many years and am clean and sober for all those years. The mutual support of other clean and sober people has been very helpful — from emotional support to simple social comeraderie. The 12 steps have been peripheral at best and disturbing at worst, but I have tolerated them in order to enjoy the friendships and support. I have found many people in AA who share my views (for instance, there are several agnostic and atheist AA meetings in larger cities in the U.S.) I strongly believe that the courts have no right to force anyone to attend a 12 step program. As more and more people with various problems, from overeating to adultery, adopt the “12 steps,” a frightening precedent is being set. I would support national legislation to block mandatory attendance at AA meetings or any other 12 step program.

    Mandatory AA meetings not only violate the rights of the person being forced to attend. It violates the rights of people attending an “anonymous” organization who are being required to commit their signatures to a legal document and/or attend meetings with disgruntled individuals. And it violates the most basic tenet of AA that it is for people who desire to be there. The government is simply taking advantage of AA and NA as a way to avoid the costs of treatment programs and/or incarceration. Regretfully AA has been complicit in this in its typical passivity. It is imperative that legal measures are taken to stop the practice of court ordered 12 step program attendance.

    • Umm… it’s NOT mandatory. They give you the choice to do that or do time in jail or prison. So if AA offends you so bad, choose prison or jail.

      • I wonder how well that would play if the courts substituted, say, the Catholic Church for AA?

    • I’ve known many addicts/alcoholics who were required by the courts to attend meetings. Many decide to continue attending long after they are no longer required to. Having found a new way to live that agrees with them, they choose to remain in recovery.

  8. [...] Further, every federal court that has looked at the question has also found that mandating AA violates the separation of church and state, making forced 12-step programs not only in violation of the spirit of AA itself but also unconstitutional. [...]

  9. Problems with Alcoholics Anonymous and all 12-Step Programs

    * Most significantly, the first step, admitting you are powerless in combating your addiction seems to completely undermine the entire rehabilitation process. Addiction is an issue of self control. Overcoming it requires personal will power. Outside/External influences can help and often make the difference but if you don’t change, nothing changes. So the first step sets the stage for not taking responsibility for changing ones’ addiction.

    * Failure is no longer your fault – Because the first step encourages people to admit they’re powerless and subsequent steps demand you ask God to take care of things for you, failure is no longer something you need to accept responsibility for. It’s in God’s hands.

    * The first step sets the stage for steps 2, 3, 6 and 7, where you in essence, pledge to replace one addiction (i.e. alcoholism) with another (the A.A. program itself or religion & dependence upon God to effect positive change in your life).

    * Even after one successfully overcomes their addiction, the 12-step programs encourage people to still consider themselves “addicted” and thus incapable of exercising any self-control or self-determination outside the limitations of the program’s world view which gives all credit to God.

    * Clinical studies have shown that 12 step programs are no more effective than not attending a program at all !

    * 12-Step programs are mandated by law/government/courts in many jurisdictions when these programs are clearly religious in nature and a violation of the Separation of church and state.

    * The “God” of your understanding can not and never will “Cure” you of your Alcoholism; kind of makes it their God that you must have.

    • With all due respect, you don’t appear to have your facts straight.

      - “Addiction is an issue of self control.” FALSE- The American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and World Health Organization, have stated that addiction is a disease. Addiction causes long term, and sometimes permanent physiological changes in the brain and body of an addict.

      - “Failure is no longer your fault.” FALSE- 12 Step Programs teach that although we are not responsible for our addiction, we ARE responsible for our recovery.

      - “…you … pledge to replace one addiction with another (the A.A. program itself or religion…)” FALSE- 12 Step Programs and religion do not fit the definition of addiction according to The American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and World Health Organization. (On a personal note, what do you base such weird opinions on???)

      - “12-step programs encourage people to still consider themselves “addicted” and thus incapable of exercising any self-control or self-determination outside the limitations of the program’s world view…” HALF TRUTH- 12-step programs DO encourage people to still consider themselves “addicted” and incapable of using successfully, but the idea that they encourage addicts to believe that they have no self-control or self-determination is FALSE as well as just ridiculous.

      - “Clinical studies have shown that 12 step programs are no more effective than not attending a program at all!” FALSE- Clinical studies have found the exact opposite to be true. Don’t take my word for it, do your own research:
      http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/providers/sud/selfhelp/docs/4_Moos_Timko_chapter.pdf

      - “12-Step programs are mandated by law/government/courts in many jurisdictions when these programs are clearly religious in nature and a violation of the Separation of church and state.” HALF TRUE- AA was originally based on ideas from the Oxford Group, which got their ideas from the Bible. Find more about the connection between AA and the Oxford Group here: http://silkworth.net/aahistory/oxford_group_connection1.html
      All 12 step recovery programs grew out of AA, but many 12 step programs do not require that you believe in the Bible, or in any God at all. It is recommended in most 12 step groups that you find a God of your OWN understanding. You can make up a God if you like. Many atheists in the programs put their belief in “G.O.D.” which stands for “Good Orderly Direction,” or make the group itself their higher power.

      - “The “God” of your understanding can not and never will “Cure” you of your Alcoholism; kind of makes it their God that you must have.” IRRELEVANT- No 12 step literature that I have ever seen or heard of has addressed whether any God, of anybody’s understanding will, or will not cure anyone.

  10. Am I the only one that understands, that it does not matter whether it is mandated or not. No government agency, with their employees using public funds ought to be allowed to use the 12 Steps as if it was treatment. First I do not think it even meets standards for treatment. Treatment is allway scientificly based and there is as much scince in AA as Vitamin Z in a glass of orange Juice.

    • No, Carlos. You are not the only one who understand that.

    • Actually, not all “treatment” is scientifically based. Most addiction care is administered by “addiction counselors” for whom there are no national standards of practice. 14 states don’t require any education or licensing at all for addiction counselors. Only six states require addiction counselors to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree; just one requires a master’s degree.Moreover, addiction treatment providers are typically not held accountable for their patients’ outcomes: the report found that nearly half of all patients with illegal drug problems are referred to treatment by the criminal justice system and, of course, it is the patients, not the counselors or program directors, who go to prison if they fail.

      According to Project MATCH, 12 step Facilitation Treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Motivational Enhancement Treatment are not that dissimilar, and have about the same short-term success rate. However, the best results appear to be obtained by long term inpatient 12 step Facilitation Treatment followed by long term 12 step meeting attendance, although success rate is significantly lowered by a delay between finishing treatment and beginning meeting attendance. Read more about project MATCH here:

      http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/ProjectMatch/matchIntro.htm

  11. Any case updates since Oct. 2009?

  12. AA has meetings for atheists as well. I hope more people and judges will be enightened that one is not forced into religion. I’ve always believed too that take what works for you and leave the rest. The only requirement for AA is a desire to stop drinking.

    • The fact that they mention God directly in AA steps and literature skews it towards believers of in religions that have a “God” and refer to their deity as “God” no matter what they included later. In the United States is prejudice in favor of Christianity, otherwise we would not be having Government-established holidays on Christmas and Easter, we would not have the phrase “In God We Trust” on our currency and would not require Oaths of Office to be taken upon a Bible or sworn with the mention of God and would God would not be referenced in the Pledge of Allegiance.

    • Why are the judges sending people who have NO DESIRE TO STOP DRINKING to AA meeting?

  13. I believe we are missing the cornerstone of the foundation here. All sentences involving AA or other forms of diversion are by definition alternative sentences. There are no provisions in the penal codes for such programs, only monetary penalties and incarceration. Alternative sentences are in lieu of incarceration, or at least in significant reduction thereof. The convict is within his rights to decline any provisions not set forth within the code and take the jail time. Of course most don’t, and that amounts to their waiver of rights to constitutional challenge.
    Or so it seems.

    • The judiciary should not provide religious programs as the ONLY available alternative sentence, if any other type exists.

      Not all towns or counties have AA/NA meetings that are friendly to practitioners of non-Christian religions or atheists.

      I also believe that religious organizations that receive federal funding to provide homeless outreach should not be able to require attendance at a sermon or bible study as a precondition of receiving said assistance

    • I would hardly call being trapped between the two options of either incarceration or attendance in a religion a situation that leads to a voluntary waiver of constitutional rights should the person up against such a choice opt for attendance at a religion they find totally offensive. Being up against these two options serves only to coerce a person into a religion. What person really wants to choose incarceration instead? I think this point is clearly understood when a person is trapped between two options that where the lesser of the two evils is being assaulted with the concepts of a thoroughly repugnant religion. I think Game Theory would probably agree with me and just about everyone knows the real odds of what supposed “choice” will be made.

      • Why not? Convicts can get time off of their sentences, and people facing charges can avoid prison times by participating in “Churches Embracing Offenders” programs.

    • Amen Constructionist!

    • Yes. Amen! And while we’re at it how about if we take all those who are guilty of the forms of theft that can lead to a life sentence and tell them that they can opt for having their hand removed instead? Make sure you let them know that if they opt to live free with only one hand that they’ve “volunteered” to waive their constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

  14. Hi I would like to know is it legal for my parole officer to notify my job and my school that im on parole? Im not a sex offender nor do I have a violent crime. My parole officer going to my job could cause me to loose it I work with a big company that pays well I did inform them of my felony but not of me still being on parole I don’t feel its their business so do I have any rights in the state of Arizona

  15. I attended a Veterans Administration dual diagnosis program that did not allow clients to leave the site by themselves and required on-site AA meeting attendance. The did not offer separate meetings for those of other religions or those who are atheists. Clients or ex-clients ran these meetings and there were required prayers specifically from the Bible in addition to the Serenity prayer. If you did not stick to these prayers you would be verbally harassed about your different beliefs. I also had a casework tell me that I would get better if I believed in her God (she considered that I didn’t have any faith at all since I identified my self as a Pagan in my admission papers and the VA doesn’t recognize any Pagan religions in their computerized record keeping except in a specific case note if they consider it relevant for treatment). The only person who felt I had the right not to be subject to this was a therapist who had to butt heads with the rest of the staff so I didn’t have to have that caseworker proselytize to me, but I still had to attend the same meetings, I just didn’t have to say any of the prayers and they had to tell the clients and multiple clients to not harass me about having different beliefs.

  16. I have been mandated treatment and It is strongly based on the twelve step program admittedly and AA steps and god posters are on the walls i am also required AA meetings i frown upon religion it even offends me i respect others beliefs but i am constantly getting grieve about not having some spiritual or higher power and told without one i will drink again. i find this a direct violation of my rights as a human and citizen im happy to be recovering and improving but there are many quirky things involved. Ive found myself thinking the same as a prior post about the twelve steps being a replacement religion and an excuse to ignore life’s issues, they the counselor and AA people also encourage life long attendance aggressively.

  17. I can’t beleive all of the dumb posters on here that can’t figure out the legal trick to getting out of going to ordered meetings. If you can’t figure that out then you’re probably a bad enough drunk that you need to go to a few meetings or at least do some soul searching of some kind which is what the judge is trying to bring about. And I can’t beleive people are hiring lawyers to help them figure it out! A drunk is a lawyers best friend. The other thing I can’t beleive is what a bunch of cry babies the Millennials are. You’re the first generation to get on online forums and go “waaaay, I got sent to AA, my civil rights were violated!” How? ” I had to sit in a seat next to a Christian for an hour, and get a cup of coffe, and they had God written on the wall!” Well they used to just beat you up or put you in the country jail or an asylum where some dude would try to beat you up or worse rape your butt. AA is sure a more pleasant place than that, especially only an hour of it compared to 24/7 confinement. Just remember, though God is on the wall, there’s no requirment that you poor abused Millennials have to look at the wall.

    • Thanks for the post! I don’t consider myself “dumb”, but how exactly does one get out of having to attend court ordered meetings? Attend one online, then sign your own slip? Curious. Thanks..

      John

      • AA is anonymous, therefore the courts or parole/probation officers can’t go verify that you actually attended a meeting because when they sign off on your attendance sheet they only use their version of “Bill W.”. So, after many torturous AA meetings that thought finally occurred to me and I just started having some friends put their “Bill W.” on my sheet. Worked like a charm.

    • john- you can think AA is better then Jail….but these posters have a right to not like their rights being violated.

      • Not to mention the fact that sentencing people to AA, whether as an alternative or not, amounts to a Government endorsement of the AA religion. The government is not supposed to endorse any religion.

        • AA is not a religion.

  18. And yet soldiers are forced into treatment in 12 Step programs daily. They have no other option. Their insurance will ONLY cover 12 Step programs. If you want to pay out of pocket to go to a different treatment it’s not going to happen because it’s not DoD approved. Commanders favorite saying for substance abuse users “Complete the 12 Step or you are out!”

    Then again, soldiers don’t have any constitutional rights. They simply defend it for others.

    I’m not a soldier. Just a concerned person that sees this happening to soldiers daily.

  19. I personally had to go to AA during probation because of a DWI. I am not religious by any means, but I went anyway. We had to keep a journal of our progress and when I got to the portion about turning my life over to god I simply wrote that this was not possible as I personally do not believe in a higher power, but wrote something along the lines of seeking outlets that might help me make better choices such as friends and family. Probation officers could give a shit whether you believe in god or not, they are just doing there job… with that being said, I do think forcing someone to go to an establishment that prays during every meeting and talks about how god changed their lives is a violation of their rights. But until it is changed..

    side note: i only went to AA a few times and just wrote journal entries based on what the AA book says for 18 months…. so, you can get around it if its that big of a deal to you personally….

  20. I am a homeless veteran who does not have a problem with alcohol. However a veteran service called alpha omega is forcing me to attend AA. Rumor has it these people are getting paid more by the VA for my forced attendance. Help me!

  21. I am being forced to go to daily AA meetings by the officer in charge of my house arrest program. I have been told that if I do not attend these meetings, I will be back behind bars. Insofar as AA is a religious organization, is it not a direct violation of my civil rights??

    • reese – yes. fight it. Tell them you want to go to SMART reCOVeRY OR SOS OR MODERATION .ORG THEY ARE ALL approved by the courts for years. AT least in LA. I know SOS and Smart are approved Nationally.

  22. I’m on probation and attending treatment in Washington State. How they get around this whole issue here is that you have to follow the recommendations of your treatment center, which include “X” amount of 12 step”SELF HELP” meetings per week. There are a whole gamut of these, and any one of them qualify. I can go to Over Eaters Anonymous if I so choose, although it wouldn’t do me (personally) much good. I’m going to start a “I Hate Miley Cyrus Anonymous” meeting, open and close the meeting myself, sign my own slip, and the treatment center can kiss my ass. :)

  23. Hey, if it’s really an issue…just show up late, get your [expletive deleted by editor] slip signed and then leave. Works every time.

  24. I am reading all your posts and I am so disturbed by all this AA court coercion that is already been fought for you in 25 states. They can not do it, but most people are not aware of their rights. I have been making a Documentary Film about predatory behavior in AA. But over the past few months I have been contacted by Pilots and Doctors who are being FORCED to attend AA or else!!!. It seems these two groups have been taken over by sober AA members and things are very deeply entrenched and corrupt.

    I have decoded to make this a segment in my film The 13th Step the film. If any of you are interested in speaking to me please contact me at singermonica@mac.com

    I think we have to expose this at a very high level. It has to change,.its so very wrong at so many levels as you all know here. Thanks ….

  25. I have been in AA over 34 years. I do not agree with court order requirement to AA meetings.. The government is involved in the program, and has no business doing so. I am grateful for our traditions. I wish more people would read them, as they would not be saying we are religious group. I would not attend if the program was a religion or a cult.. I could quote page after page showing someone how we are a religion or cult, but someone would just try to dispute my debate.. As, if you do not like AA you will find something wrong.. The reason AA is not liked is because allot people were court ordered to attend. But for the AA program, we can not as a whole speak out for ourselves, as that is one of our traditions.. Just wish more people knew their facts..

    • Pam: AA is based on a religious cult from the 1930′s known as Buchmanism, or The Oxford Group, or Moral Rearmament. Since it is based on a religious cult explain how it isn’t a religious cult itself? At what point did it magically become “spiritual, not religious”? There are many other indications that it is religious. AA could solve the whole problem of mandatory or coerced attendance if they refused to accept anyone who did not voluntarily attend. A simple solution – yet they won’t do that. WHY? You need to educate yourself, do some research. It is difficult after spending 34 years believing something, but why choose to remain ignorant? Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence showing that AA or any other 12 step program is effective in stopping people from doing anything. There are indications that such programs cause more harm than good. The courts have no business forcing anyone to attend any type of religious meetings. This is a constitutional issue and needs to be corrected.

    • The idea that people who do not like AA are simply trying to find something wrong with the program when they dispute the “spiritual not religious” claim is patently false. At some point, I decided to engage an exercise in examining AA’s claims that it spiritual, not religious. I decided to approach AA’s claim from the point-of-view of accepting the claim as true and investigating just what such a claim could possibly true of. I investigated every definition of the word spiritual available in the dictionary and came up with only one that could fit AA’s claim. I then investigated that claim in relation to the Higher Power they claim you can have instead of God. By the time I was done, even if you ignore AA’s clear religious roots, and try to ignore their use of the word God, AA’s claims roundly fail on Step 3 of the 12-steps. My examination is here in very rough draft: http://freepdfhosting.com/39616edcf4.pdf

  26. I have one month left until my probation expires and this Thursday I have a court date for failing to attend self help group meetings, I have not been in any other trouble, have not done anything wrong.. I just didnt turn in AA slips for a period of time. Now I have the previously mentioned show cause hearing to deal with and with it a possible 10 month suspended sentence. I chose not to go because I would leave the meetings feeling like I needed a drink worse than before I went. I have been on probation for 35 of 36 months without any issues. So if you think for a second the courts or probation can’t nail you for it, I think you are wrong.. Or at least mistaken. I will let you know how it goes either Thursday night or however long I am incarcerated for only “failure to attend self help groups”

  27. I too am being forced by Texas to attend AA meetings 2x a week. I know the Federal probation folks no longer can require mandatory attendance, yet Texas does, and then hold their AA meetings inhouse to ensure you attend. Nothing against faith/spiritual based programs, but being Jewish, I have some serious concerns about the faith based tenets of AA and the “Lord’s Prayer” they close with. If this is not a violation of my First Amendment right to Freedom of Religion, I don’t know what is. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts. You know Texas is so far behind the curve when it comes to freedom and Constitutional rights and diversity….But incarceration for failing to attend what amounts to “church” is just WRONG!

  28. Is this just for N/A and A/A that is law is for or is it for any religious based program and parolee would have to take?

  29. The article was short but to the point. Thanks for pointing it out. I hope the government is forced to stop making attendance a requirement. There are alot of people who still think AA is the only way to recover from addiction, and a lot of courts will still mandate attendance. I had a couple of DUI’s and had to attend AA. In fact, I have to attend AA, for years probably, (retch) in order to have a shot at getting my license restriction lifted. As a non-religious attendee, being told it wasn’t religious and then having to do the touchy-feely holding hands and reciting the lord’s prayer thing at the end was uncomfortable, to say the least. I don’t want to hold your hand dude. It’s hypocritical. It’s laced, repetitively, with religious mumbo-jumbo, despite the whole ‘as you understand him’ cop-out. It is an effective way to mask the overt Christian rhetoric and make the claim that it’s not religious- you can decide what your God is! Yeah. Say ‘no’ when they tell you to hold hands. Observe the rage. Heh. Besides the religious structure, AA is wrong on a fundamental level. The rational recovery program points it out clearly. AA is a mind-control, identity-change organization; ie- a cult. It may work for some, more power to them, but it didn’t work for me. I saw it for what it was. I managed to recover without it. Despite it, even. For other fun violations of constitutional rights, check out driver’s responsibility and ignition interlock laws, if you haven’t already.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


five + = 9

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>