Missouri Prisoner Challenges Parole Requirement of AA Attendance
Missouri Inmate Randall Jackson who was serving a sentence for charges related to a drunk driving offense was offered early release if he agreed to AA attendance as a condition of his parole. Jackson, an atheist objected on the grounds that requiring attendance at AA is a violation of his first amendment rights, and last year the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Jackson’s favor and allowed his case to move forward. Presently, the case is on hold until Jackson’s attorneys can provide evidence that the suit meets the numerosity requirement for class action suits.
I don’t quite understand why Jackson chose to file a class action suit rather than an individual suit. Last year, California inmate Barry Hazle, Jr. won a $2 million lawsuit against the California Department of Corrections because of a parole requirement to attend a treatment program that utilizes AA’s Twelve Steps.
Obviously, the courts recognize AA as a religious organization, and our answer is in AA is “no comment, that is an outside issue”. Is it really though? I mean can’t it be an inside issue if we so chose to make it one? There may be something to look at if we say we aren’t religious, yet that isn’t the legal assessment nor is it the view of the public at large. The perception of AA from the outside is that we are religious, and this should concern us. How many people are we not reaching that we could reach if we could let go of our fear of change, if we could just show a little more flexibility, if we could just reach out more to the atheists and agnostics among us.
Read more about the Missouri lawsuit here: