Active RNS subscribers and members can view this content at the RNS Archives website.

SAN FRANCISCO (RNS) In a move that could have wider implications, a federal appeals court ordered a lower court judge to consider preventing state officials from requiring parolees to attend rehabilitation programs that are focused on God or a “higher power.”


  1. Earold D Gunter

    Odds are the jury was made up of “believers” who sought to teach Mr. Hazle a lesson about not being one of them and having the audacity to stand up for himself about it. A perfect exhibition of the tolerance taught by the “good book”.

    Don’t need a carrot and a stick for people to treat each other with love.
    Good day!

  2. Hazle was ordered to residential treatment. Secular Organizations for Sobriety only has meetings (group therapy), not residential treatment. There is no secular residential treatment provider in California.

    What really surprises me is that everyone admitted there was no secular alternative, rather than playing the “it’s not religious it’s spiritual” card.

  3. I imagine that the religious types who don’t understand why Hazle was opposed to religious flavored “therapy” would grok it in a different scenario.

    Like getting sent to Scientology’s version of rehab, Narconon. If you think Christian rehab is bad…you have no idea the horrors Narconon imposes!

    But yeah, they would definitely whine about having Scientology doctrine imposed on them. I have no doubt.

  4. just for the record: Secular Organizations for Sobriety/Save Our Selves (SOS) is NOT A 12 STEP PROGRAM. more to the point, SOS has distinguished itself by being – in its own words – “the world’s largest non-12-Step addiction recovery program” & “The Proven Alternative to 12-Step Programs”.

    by their very nature, 12 Step programs are religious. atheist/agnostic/secular attendees may re-write the steps to suit their own beliefs (or lack thereof) but their edits are significant.

    the only guarantee in the 12 Steps is “a spiritual awakening”, not the cessation of alcoholic or addictive behaviors. erroneously stating that SOS is a “12-step program” misleads readers about the nature of SOS & the nature of 12 Step practice. this should corrected.

  5. There are other non-12-step support options in Northern California. LifeRing Secular recovery offers approximately 100 meetings per week in N. CA and an additional capability of on-line meetings. LifeRing welcomes people of all faiths or none.
    Local and state governments and courts refuse to recognize alternates because they have not grown. Alternates have not grown because they are not recognized.
    There is an existing hegemony of entanglement by 12-Step, the treatment industry, local government, and courts.