Municipal Court offers alternatives to 12-step program after FFRF complaint (Aug. 1, 2012)

Thanks to a letter from FFRF, the Rocky River Municipal Court will now offer secular alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous.

As part of a rehabilitation program in Rocky River, which is just west of Cleveland, the court required some offenders to either attend Alcoholics Anonymous or face jail time. An atheist complainant reported that the probation conditions were unworkable and said, “all I want is a viable alternative to AA other than jail.”

Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott wrote a March 16, 2012, letter to the court’s probation department, pointing out that courts have consistently found AA and other 12-step programs to be “religious programs for purposes of First Amendment analysis.” Therefore, requiring attendance at one of the programs violates the Establishment Clause because “it coerces offenders to attend religious programming in violation of their conscience.” 

The Chief Probation Officer Judy Nash responded on August 1 to report that the Rocky River Municipal Court will now offer offenders options for other support. Nash also said that the court will make available information on Rational Recovery and Secular Organizations for Sobriety.

Freedom From Religion Foundation