Atheist forced to attend AA

Claims Alcoholics Anonymous forces participants to believe in God

James Lindon, an Ohio atheist and humanist convicted of drug charges, filed in Cleveland federal court a lawsuit against presiding Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold, officials of Cuyahoga County departments, and also against a treatment center. He said the judge and the treatment providers compelled him to participate in the Alcoholics Anonymous treatment program. Lindon claims the latter has roots in monotheistic spirituality.

The case began in 2016 when Lindon got convicted of drug theft and possession of five hydrocodone pills. He got a chance to commit this crime due to his position as a pharmacist in an outpatient clinic. When confronted by plainclothes security guards, he swallowed four of five pills he stole. This action led him to additionally be charged with tampering with evidence. Judge Saffold of Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas subsequently sentenced him to two years of probation and required him to complete an in-patient program related to substance abuse spanning 30 days.

Lindon claims that in order to participate in the 12-step program run by Alcoholics Anonymous, he has to believe in a “higher power” or a single God. According to his lawsuit, forcing any person to attend what in reality is a religious practice in the guise of a compulsory treatment program related to substance abuse can be termed a systemic and predictable constitutional law violation. As per the complaint, if Lindon fails to attend and also participate in the complete 12 step program, he can be incarcerated or subject to a number of any other detrimental consequences.

When Lindon voiced his objection to the program’s religious content and told the staff of his disbelief in a higher power, the staff at the treatment center allegedly did not adjust the treatment plan. He was, instead, instructed to read a particular chapter titled “We Agnostics” as found in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book.

In a phone interview on February 27, Lindon said his vehement opposition to this Alcoholics Anonymous program resulted in his dismissal from Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP), a counseling and also recovery monitoring program. He was a practicing attorney prior to his disbarment in Michigan and suspension in Ohio. He and OLAP had signed a recovery contract with the hope that the latter will advocate for him when it came to the Supreme Court of Ohio and also help him to move to legal work after completing his probation.

Follow the Conversation on Twitter