Barry A. Hazle Jr., Atheist, Wins Nearly $2 Million In Settlement Over AA Based Rehab Program

truth justiceThis story broke on The Courthouse News Service. Here is the original story. His lawyer is given credit which he should get a medal as far as I am concerned. John Heller in San Francisco. We applaud you!!!


A California atheist has won a settlement of nearly $2 million after being sent to jail on a parole violation for objections he made about participating in a faith-based rehab program.

Barry A. Hazle Jr., 46, served time for a conviction of methamphetamine possession in 2007. As a condition of his parole, he was enrolled in a drug treatment program where participants were required to acknowledge a “higher power,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

Hazle complained and asked for a different treatment program, but was told the only option in his area was the faith-based, Westcare 12-step program, according to the Record Searchlight.

Hazle was sent back to jail for more than three months for allegedly being “disruptive, though in a congenial way, to the staff as well as other students” and being “sort of passive-aggressive,” the paper reported.

“I’m thrilled to finally have this case settled,” Hazle told the Searchlight. “It sends a clear message to people in a position of authority, like my parole agent, for example, that they not mandate religious programming for their parolees, and for anyone else, for that matter.”

Hazle sued in 2008 and won, but a jury refused to award him any damages. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals then threw out the decision. In a unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel said Hazle was entitled to compensation.

The jury’s verdict, which awarded Hazle no compensatory damages at all for his loss of liberty, cannot be upheld,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the court’s opinion. “The jury simply was not entitled to refuse to award any damages for Hazle’s undisputable — and undisputed — loss of liberty, and its verdict to the contrary must be rejected.”

The state of California will pay Hazle $1 million, while Westcare will pay $925,000under terms of the settlement, according to KRCR-TV.

Hazle told the Sacramento Bee he plans to become active in local drug rehabilitation efforts.

The California Department of Corrections has since issued new rules stating that parole officers may not require parolees to attend faith-based programs.


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18 thoughts on “Barry A. Hazle Jr., Atheist, Wins Nearly $2 Million In Settlement Over AA Based Rehab Program

  1. This is the first court case that has awarded damages and significant damages..
    This type of case could open the floodgates to many other similar lawsuits.

    • yes anne, this is wonderful news and I plan to get this info to courthouses all over Los Angeles along with my handy Pamphlet I made. 🙂

      I imagine that many lawyers will eventually be running to rep these people and forget the DUI gravy train they have been living off of.

    • The lead attorney in this case, John Heller, spoke at the 2014 LifeRing Conference. Mid-way into his presentation his client, the plaintiff Barry Hazle, Jr. walk into the back of the auditorium. At the end of John Heller’s presentation on the First Amendment aspects of this case, he introduced Barry Hazle to the audience.
      Barry Hazle received a very nice ovation from the LifeRing crowd for his bravery and courage. Mr. Hazle has stated that he intends to remain active in the recovery community and build a home in the mountains.

      • hi Bryon- WOW nice that you got to be there for that. I am planning to have them on my blog talk radio show Safe Recovery soon. I also hope I get to meet them and that John can help with the Pilot extortion going on with AA and Pilots. Doctors too…

        Thanks for dropping by !

  2. Wonderful news! What a great lawyer and Barry himself showed determination throughout all of it. This needs to really help in giving people courage to stand up for their rights and bring lawsuits when needed.

    I wonder if AA can be held culpable for aiding in civil right violations of American citizens. They are in collusion with our courts and employers to force people against their will for monetary gain.

  3. I hope this is the tip of the iceberg. I believe that not only atheists, but people with a faith that does not mesh with the 12-step philosophy, could have grounds to sue for being forced into 12-step meetings also. I have seen people not given the option whether to say the Lord’s Prayer at the end of meetings here in the south. I am sure there are other ways that the 12-steps contradict various belief systems. It is forcing a specific belief system on others no matter what, which is unconstitutional.

  4. Imagine that…. being sent to jail for not believing in a Higher Power. What I like is the fact that the jury saw through the ‘…of your understanding’ part of the AA program.


  5. Here is an interesting case. Smith v New York City Transit. This guy tried to sue NYCT because when he applied for a job his medical showed that he was an alcoholic. Apparently one of the conditions of employment be that he attend AA. He sued for 56 million. Before the case was finished they did another medical and gave him a job – so all the rest was mute.

    But I like the fact that he sued on the fact that AA would be a condition of employment. Perhaps your lawyers, doctors and pilots can show that this has been done before?

    • yea but did you see how they talk about giving him time to attend AA meetings? I mean…what good is that?

      How more entrenched could AA be. Its done.

      They have highjacked our world, our country , our media , the FAA, the judicial system, our courts, the social worker field, ….our newspapers, TV show, A list films, Music Industry, Doctors are forced to attend AA meeting when going to Medical school. oh my GOD !!!!!!

      This is so depressing.

  6. Thanks. I should have put in a quote from the Police Chief one, Here it is… ‘A former police chief in Bar Harbor, Maine has filed a wrongful dismissal suit against the city. Nate Young claims that he was fired from the police force due to being an alcoholic, a status he claims as a disability. Bar Harbor, Young argues, has a duty under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to make reasonable accommodations that would allow him to carry out his duties while seeking treatment for his condition, something he says the city blatantly refused to do.’

  7. Sounds like this guy was sentenced to 12 step rehabs and will be sent back to the ” stepping stones” rehab after serving prison time.

    Prison only alternative for substance abuser


    A Dublin man who has been tossed out of two area substance abuse treatment programs will have another chance to overcome his addictions, but this time he’ll do so while in prison.

    Justin Jerome Davis, 32, told a Pulaski County judge Tuesday that he has been abusing marijuana and alcohol for the past 20 years. He acknowledged having been “kicked out” of New Life and Stepping Stones substance abuse programs, but said he would be willing to take part in any program the court required him to attend.

    Davis was in court for a hearing to determine whether he should be sent back to prison for violating conditions of probation on 2009 convictions of assaulting a police officer, obstructing justice, possession of a biological agent and three counts of drug possession.

    According to Davis’ court testimony, he started serving a term of probation on the convictions in March 2010, but “problems started” in November 2013 because, he said, “I’m addicted to drugs and alcohol, and that led to me making other bad decisions.”

    On cross-examination by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Skip Schwab, Davis admitted to failing multiple drug screens while on probation. Davis also admitted to being discharged from New Life because he failed to attend required meetings, and being removed from Stepping Stones due to his temper.

    Davis said he was attending Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, and found them more beneficial.

    Circuit Court Judge Marcus Long asked Davis why he could attend NA and AA meetings, but not the ones required by New Life.

    “Because I was dirty (using drugs and alcohol) and I knew I would get violated (have his probation revoked),” Davis responded.

    Judge Long pointed out the NA and AA meetings must not have been beneficial, since Davis was still abusing drugs and alcohol while attending them. However, Davis insisted the people in the meetings were helpful to him and vice versa.

    Defense attorney David DeVries asked Judge Long to consider staying within the sentencing guidelines when sentencing his client. He also proposed the judge consider sending Davis to another treatment program.

    Schwab said Davis doesn’t seem to want help with the addictions, saying, “even though he says he wants help, he always has problems completing structured programs.”

    “You present a real problem for me,” Judge Long told Davis. He pointed out that Davis “completely failed” the two local treatment programs, and continued to abuse substances while attending NA and AA meetings.

    “I have no alternative but to take the next step up, and it’s going to be a deviation upward (from the sentencing guidelines),” Long said, noting that he could revoke the full nine years of suspended sentences hanging over the defendant’s head.

    However, the judge chose to, instead, require Davis to serve three years of the sentence. During that time, Davis must attend a “therapeutic” program offered in prison. Upon release from prison, Davis will be placed on five years of probation, and he must return to the Stepping Stones program for additional treatment.

    “If this doesn’t work, I don’t know what else will, given your 20-year problem,” Judge Long said.

  8. This is on a California blog for legal professionals. So there is more legal speak.
    Interesting take on it.

    Atheist Sues Over Religious 12-Step Program, Settles for $1.9M
    By Mark Wilson, Esq. on October 16, 2014 11:11 AM
    Parolees in California can be required to enroll in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs as part of their parole or probation. But it’s potentially crossing a line to ask an atheist parolee to surrender to a higher deity that he doesn’t believe in.

    That’s what happened to Barry Hazle of Shasta County, who was paroled after a prison term for meth possession and then ordered to enroll in a drug treatment program. The program required that he “submit to a ‘higher power,'” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

    Hazle, a lifelong atheist, was having none of it.

    Submit to a Higher Authority

    Programs based on Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step model explicitly invoke a higher power in six of their 12 steps. Atheists around the country didn’t much care for this and started their own support group, minus the deities. But a problem arose when courts all over the place began requiring enrollment in AA — along with its focus on higher powers — as part of defendants’ sentences.

    This, of course, gets into thorny Establishment Clause issues — issues which Hazle litigated by filing a lawsuit. In 2008, he won a jury verdict in his favor, but received no money. He appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which said he was entitled to something and sent the case back to trial court.

    Now, the parties have settled and Hazle will walk away with $1 million from the State of California and $925,000 from WestCare, the contractor that handles referrals to drug treatment programs.

    Not a Thrilling New Result

    It’s not that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) didn’t have any atheistic 12-step programs; it’s that WestCare’s was the only CDCR-approved program in Shasta County, where Hazle lived, and it happened to be a theistic program. (Although, according to the Chronicle, “WestCare said it never received the corrections department’s order and doesn’t understand the term ‘alternative non-religious program.'”)

    Courts in seven different circuits have all ruled that court-mandated attendance in a theistic drug treatment program violates the Establishment Clause because of its heavy religious components, says the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Indeed, the Second Circuit said in a 2002 case, “[T]o the best of our knowledge, no court presented with an Establishment Clause challenge implicating A.A. or a comparable therapy program incorporating religious concepts has reached a contrary [conclusion].”

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