Let’s just get this out of the way: In 2016, Ohio atheist James Lindon screwed up.
… Lindon was convicted of drug possession and theft for stealing five hydrocodone pills from an outpatient clinic where he was working as a pharmacist. He was also convicted of tampering with evidence after swallowing four of the five stolen pills when confronted by plainclothes security guards.
That… was dumb.
Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold sentenced him to a month in a substance abuse program on top of two years of probation.
But Lindon, a former attorney, claims in a new lawsuit that the program requires him to go through Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step program, which tells followers they must submit to a Higher Power.
He says that’s a violation of his religious freedom.
“Compelling any person to attend de facto religious services as a part of mandatory substance abuse treatment program is a predictable and systemic violation of constitutional law,” his lawsuit states.
According to the complaint, Lindon was told that failure to attend and participate in the 12-step program would result in incarceration or other detrimental consequences.
Lindon says he’s open to a secular substitute for the AA program, but the treatment center’s staff said he didn’t have any options but the religious one.
Courthouse News Service reports that Lindon is seeking “compensatory damages, a declaration that the defendants’ use of the AA 12-step program is unconstitutional, and injunction against using it.”
If his claims are correct, then his lawsuit seems extremely valid. In 2016, a California prisoner who happened to be a non-theistic Buddhist filed a similar lawsuit. The state eventually agreed that he could enroll in a secular treatment center or use a non-religious AA substitute like SMART Recovery.
There’s no reason an accommodation like that can’t be made for Lindon. This isn’t about being lenient on him. This is about whether his freedom should be contingent on following a religious program.
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