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Atheist Sues Rehab For Sending Him Back To Jail For Not Submitting To A "Higher Power"

Discussion in '12-Step Support Groups' started by Charli, Oct 16, 2014.

  1. Charli

    Charli Community Champion

    Apologies if this is the wrong section or if these types of articles/outside links are not allowed here. Please just let me know.

    Anyway, I came across this article just today and thought it would make for some good discussion here.

    The summary of the story , from what I understand, is that the atheist who got jailed initially for drug possession charges was required to do a rehab program and the clinic was forcing religious practices on him and since he declined to do so, even while still being cordial, he was sent to back to jail and then he sued for $2M and won.

    In such an odd story like this, there are a lot of potential points of discussion, and of course you are welcome to bring up any topic of your own that you see in this story, so please feel free to do so.

    As for me, what I consider to be most important in this is that I really feel it is unnecessary to have to submit to a higher power in this process. Personally, I think during these times in a person's life, it is more important to let them know that they themselves are strong instead of telling them they are weak and have to rely on a spirit that may or may not exist.

    I realize this process helps some people, so I don't consider it to be that much of a bad thing, nor would I judge or condemn people for believing in it, but it's just my personal belief that this is not the best way to go about it.

    What do you guys think?
  2. LostmySis

    LostmySis Senior Contributor

    This is so incredibly absurd that I think the jury should have paid out the $2 million to him. First, the rehab was court ordered. If he refuses to comply with the program, he should have been sent back to prison. Second, the program does not tell you to worship some "spirit" being. It tells you that you cannot control everything in life, and until you are sober and thinking clearly, you cannot control anything else. The "higher power" is a phrase to represent whatever it is that you must use to get yourself sober. The meeting itself can be the higher power. Knowing a sponsor is there for you can be your higher power. Another issue is that people in that situation are overwhelmed and stressed, so transferring power away from yourself relieves you of that stress. If you had any power or control to begin with, you would not need a program. Addicts are weak, recovering addicts are strong. Addicts are not sober, recovering addicts prove their strength everyday. I also think the level of addiction and how long they have had it makes a difference. If you were using for two months, it will be easier to quit than if you were an addict for 20 years.
  3. Rainman

    Rainman Community Champion

    No one should be forced to submit to a higher power if they don't believe in the said 'higher power.' There are hundreds of other recovery programs that don't include having to believe in Deity that can help anyone beat their addictions. I think those who are mandated to rehabilitate drug users need to take into account the fact that not everyone is religious. I'm sure that in future they'll have versatile [recovery] programs in place, that can cater to any group(s) regardless of whether they believe in higher powers or not.
  4. KC Sunshine

    KC Sunshine Member

    Ok, so I would see two issues here. First, there's the whole question of the "higher power" and what is meant by that. A lot of people, because we live in a religious society, say it is God or Jesus and they relate it to the metaphysics of their church experience. Others say it is the collective wisdom of people, the way in which together we are somehow greater than the sum of our parts. Still others reject all things spiritual and say it's the routine and ritual of the group. The every day rhythm of staying clean and sober. I even once heard a Buddhist refuse to pray. A lot of people find it relatively easy to make their peace with the concept. All of them understand that it is, in the meeting, a spiritual not religious concept. Ok, so "higher power" is an obstacle. You don't believe in anything. So the second issue to me is if you don't believe in anything then why not just lie and avoid the harsh consequences for failing to follow a court order? Just seems easier.
  5. jackslivi

    jackslivi Active Contributor

    I think that people should find what works for them. If that includes a higher power then great, if not then it shouldn't be a big deal. I think that they were wrong for pushing that on him because they should of just been helping him. All of those people are clearly not following the right higher power if they think that they did the right thing. Sounds like they are just working off of greed. Poor guy though. I think everyone should be willing to accept a person whether or not they believe. Who cares. One day they may find God a different day but to push it onto him is n0t going to get him or them anywhere. Shame on them.
  6. GenevB

    GenevB Community Champion

    This violates his basic rights. He has the right of free-thinking and from what I know no one can take that away. I hope he wins his process, after all, a rehab process shouldn't be based on something you don't believe in.
  7. Wow, that's unbelievable. I was under the impression from what I was told in my home group that your higher power could be whatever you want and that it was not exclusively a religious higher power. It could be your cuddly little kitten if that's what help keeps you sober. Unfortunately it is this sort of attitude that keeps a lot of people from seeking help in the program because it is reinforcing the idea that all 12 step programs require a belief in God.
  8. AFKATafcar

    AFKATafcar Community Champion

    That's a pretty awkward story, if you ask me. Of course, he's going to get awarded the $2 million because that's a big no-no type of action on the part of the rehab facility. You can be a faith-based rehab center, but you can't force someone to follow that faith or submit to it if they just want treatment and nothing more. It doesn't surprise me that he sued, and there's no surprise that he won either.
  9. Matthodge1

    Matthodge1 Community Champion

    As a Christian, no one should be forced to come to God. Someone who needs Jesus(assuming the higher power they tried to use was Jesus)will come to Him naturally. I feel sorry for this man. I hope his rehab stint goes well, and that he will stay clean.
  10. Fern

    Fern Active Contributor

    I'm glad he won but I'm not surprised. Forcing religion on someone as part of the court system or really for any reason is wrong in my opinion. Their are plenty of treatment programs that do not have a 'higher power' component at all. That none were licensed to provide court ordered treatment is a fault of the court, NOT the addict.

    As an agnostic, I generally see no harm in pretending or humoring a believer to avoid conflict. I find religions of all sorts pretty interesting. BUT as part of a treatment program, I believe you need to be able to be honest about how you're feeling and your beliefs. Professing to believe in a higher power to help when you don't or can't find something to believe in leads to a habit of not being honest with the people trying to help you. They won't know where you truly are in recovery and that's not really helpful in the long run. I admire him for sticking to the truth in the pursuit of real recovery and being willing to go back to jail for it.

    I can also see how admitting his doubts and not being able to find a higher anything to believe in could be disruptive to the other residents who did believe in something, whether a big G god or the flying spaghetti monster or whatever. Throwing an atheist or agnostic in with believers typically results in either the agnostic getting lynched/treated poorly or the believers questioning their beliefs. Neither thing would help in recovery.
  11. Zyni

    Zyni Community Champion

    As noted, higher power can mean anything. Unless they specifically tried to force a specific religion/deity on the guy, I don't understand. I say this as a Christian myself. I don't think any religion should ever be forced. I have never seen that in action in rehabilitation myself. Higher power means many different things to different people.

    I do agree that he has to be honest to get/stay clean.

    I hope it all works out for the guy.
  12. ZackeyMane

    ZackeyMane Member

    I definitely believe that it is good that he won. If such rehabs wanted to be truly fair, they could offer religious and non-religious options, with things that can agree with faiths of all kinds. That's what can truly help someone.
  13. ThatKidWithTheFace

    ThatKidWithTheFace Active Contributor

    He agreed to go to the rehab, right? Then he should have been sent back to jail. They usually give you a choice of going with the program or going to jail. He chose not to follow the program, so the only other option he was given is jail.
  14. Delaney

    Delaney Member

    Isn't this always a concern/problem with 12-step groups though? I know in my time in them I've often been worried about whether or not they are just a religious conversion centre. People have said that the "higher power" doesn't have to be a spiritual one, but then it's not as if there are that many higher powers out there that aren't some sort of religious figure. Unless you treat the addiction itself as the "higher power".
  15. RobertNick

    RobertNick Member

    It wasn't really fair of them to send him back to jail, but that's what religion does sometimes. I doubt they should have given him that much money tho, just accepting him back into a program and a modest sum on top of that would have been just good.
  16. Nick W.

    Nick W. Community Listener Community Listener

    Is it really an issue of fairness? The person made the choice that landed them in prison, ANY help or treatment options that are given as an alternative should be seen as a gift at that point, because the consequences of the original action were being overlooked in order for them to receive some kind of treatment. I kind of feel like they should have just been thankful for that, and not litigious pricks.
    Zyni likes this.
  17. Matthodge1

    Matthodge1 Community Champion

    I'm not sure if I just missed this or not, but why did he end up being in a court ordered rehab program in the first place?
  18. missbishi

    missbishi Community Champion

    This is terrible. You cannot just force religion on people and I am surprised that the courts work in conjunction with organizations which do try this.

    Matthodge1 : he went to prison for possession of methamphetamine, or crystal meth.
  19. bluedressed

    bluedressed Community Champion

    I like this. Fake faith is not gonna help anybody get better, after all.

    And if it was Muslims heading this rehab thing and forcing their religion on the guy, I'm pretty sure the whole country would have been offended. (Just giving perspective for potential conservatives or religious people who might disagree about the right of this guy to be offended and want justice)
  20. vegito12

    vegito12 Community Champion

    I think he was getting the help, but when it involved religion than the stopped being active in getting help as that was against what he believed in and did not believe in god to start with. I am surprised he won that much money in the case, the taxpayers money went into getting reimbursed for being sent back to jail and he came out a winner. I think these sort of centers should not, force prayer on someone who is not interested or who does not believe in god and religion which can lead to this happening.