Government Forcing Religion On Us...

Is it legal, constitutional or fair for the government to force people convicted of improper alcohol use (DWI, DUI, public intox, etc.) to attend faith-based “recovery” meetings? (AA for example)

What if you’re atheist and don’t believe in a “higher power”? Can an offender choose to go to a secular program instead?

Aside from the religious/legal angle-- what if you simply don’t believe in the disease model of alcholism? What if you don’t believe that you will be “sick” forever and can never be cured? What if you don’t believe that you are powerless?

Can the State FORCE you to attend meetings that do not jibe with either your personal religious beliefs or your ideas of rational thought?

This thread touches on the constitutional issues:
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=47026

Lots of atheists, agnostics, gnostics, and tree-frog worshippers belong to AA. The definition of ‘higher power’ is broad enough that almost any power beyond self-will could qualify.

They don’t force you. They give you options. They say “you can go to meetings, and avoid jail or get out sooner; or you can refuse to go to meetings and stay in jail longer.” Choices remain. Choose wisely.

Well, if the state said “you can get saved and baptized and go to church[sup]1[/sup], and avoid jail or get out sooner; or you can refuse to get saved and baptized and go to church[sup]1[/sup] and stay in jail longer” there would be a problem. The question would be whether or not forcing someone to attend AA meetings is tantamount to forcing them to practice religion or not; at least one federal appeals court has ruled that it is (scroll down to the item New York Atheist Can Skip AA Meetings). Forcing someone to get some sort of treatment, without specifying the religious content of said treatment, would not raise any freedom of religion or church-state issues, since there are secular alternatives to AA.

[sup]1[/sup]Substitute “burn incense before the idols of the State on the altar of Caesar” as needed.

mebuckner I agree with you. I believe the State has a legitimate interest in mandating some form of treatment which is generally recognized as being effective, and I’m ok with the carrot and stick approach. There are enough faith, spirituality, and atheist-based treatments out there to satisfy any legitimate dissenter.

There aren’t a lot of good statistics out there, but in the US, about half the people who get and stay clean and sober do it thru AA or a related 12 step program. The other half use literally 3 or 4 dozen other methodologies. About 4 percent just manage to stop without any other type of therapeutic intervention.

I won’t even open the can of worms about how your typical AA member feels when someone comes to closed meetings because the judge ordered them to, when they don’t really want to stop drinking.