Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has been providing alcohol recovery services for eighty-plus years and has long been the recommended solution for individuals with an alcohol-dependency problem. AA originally sprang from a Christian religious movement called “The Oxford Group,” and AA (and programs based on its model) use “higher power” imagery in its 12-step program model that can be alienating for nontheists and negatively impact their recovery.

AA has benefitted many individuals, providing recovery programs vital to achieving individual behavior change. However, offering choice in recovery is important not only from a legal standpoint, but also because research has shown that allowing choice in recovery programs results in enhanced outcomes – especially when the program is selected based on the individual’s needs and beliefs.

Courts have consistently found that 12-step programs are “pervasively religious.” This is why it is essential that secular programs be available for nontheists, people of minority faiths, and people of faith who prefer to separate their faith from their recovery process. If a court orders someone to attend a religious recovery program against their wishes, it is compelling them to engage in a religious activity, a clear violation of the separation of church and state.

Courts that order individuals to participate in recovery programs must respect the individual and the law by ensuring that secular option is available to them.

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