The Uninspired Manifesto

Monday, November 12, 2007

Church Sponsored Youth Therapy

Article from Bismarck Tribune.
The name of the organization tells it plainly: Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Wisconsin-based group wants a U.S. district court to rule against any public funding of the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. The legal complaint further demands that public agencies not refer troubled young people to the program as long as religion plays any part in the treatment.


It's alleged that "children are committed to the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, without their consent, by county social service agencies or the (state)Department of Juvenile Services and/or the (state) Department of Human Services, and all the children receive religious inculcation, including those who are committed by public agencies."

The atheist foundation might have its strongest argument on a constitutional basis if it's true that "children are disciplined for refusing to participate in the spiritual aspects of their therapeutic treatment plan, including suspension of privileges; prolongation of commitment (to the program). ... Refusal to participate in religious activities is considered non participation in a child's treatment plan."

This certainly isn't a new occurrence, as church sponsored therapy or rehabilitation programs are the most commonly court ordered. I believe I've talked before about my own experiences, including AA, NA, and court ordered therapy sessions along with school ordered counseling sessions, all of which for some reason had to be infused with religion. In NA (Narcotics Anonymous, for those of you who don't know), for example, we started every meeting with a mandatory prayer, which, on the occasions I did not participate in, I was reprimanded for several minutes before we could continue. When I first began the program, among the first few questions the counselor asked me, was what religion I would like to be identified by. When I responded with a 'No Preference' (Seemed less intrusive than atheist, and I really wanted to stay out of the spotlight), it began a line of questions trying to connect my substance abuse to my lack of religious affiliation. In my court ordered therapy sessions (for an entirely different reason) the same line of questioning came up, trying to connect my lack of faith to what got me expelled. (They were in some ways connected, but not like that)

My point is, though, that a purely secular rehab program would work just as well, if not better because of the forced segregation. A court ordered program needs to be all encompassing, and not attending a church sermon or praying in a group isn't going to affect a person's rehabilitation. I was never an addict myself, so giving up was as easy as losing my dealer's number and not having any way to contact him. Almost a year later, and I don't even miss it. Still, my biggest influence was the stories I hear in those AA and NA meetings from life long addicts who've suffered horrible loss and tragedy at the hands of their addictions, not 12 fucking steps. Hearing a young mother openly weep as she discusses the death of her young son while she was high on crystal meth did a hell of a lot more for me than a few fucking bible verses.

Don't get me wrong, though, I can understand a person using religion as a crutch to help them with their addictions, or stay clean, but its not for everyone, and the court system has to understand that. Forcing a person to conform to ideals they don't agree with is only going to hinder their progression in any program, especially one as vital as this. All I can say, is that I hope the Freedom From Religion Foundation is successful so that more young people can get help without having to suffer through a fucking recruitment speech for the christian church.
posted by Nick at 5:41 PM


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