|Posted by Live_free_or_die on October 13, 2012 at 3:25 PM||comments (3)|
There is a concept here in the United States that states that there is to be a separation of church and state in all things government. This means, generally, that the state cannot force an individual to practice a given religion, or the state cannot preclude the practice of a given religion. For purposes of discussion here “state” is defined as the U.S. Government or one of the fifty states and includes the various U.S. possessions or territories. This concept is embodied in the First Amendment, a part of the Bill of Rights.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contains two provisions that address the religion issue. The two provisions are known as the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. Basically, taken together, these two Clauses say that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The U.S. Supreme Court’s first look at the Free Exercise Clause was in 1878 (Reynolds v. United States).
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is program that was introduced by William Griffith Wilson (Bill W.) in 1935. AA is purported to help the alcohol abuser. The AA program is based on a concept that Bill W. incorporated into AA – The Higher Power. This Higher Power is based on a supposed power greater than ourselves. This power is also called God in most circles. AA has, since 1935, claimed that the program is spiritual, not religious. AA is based on a program that Bill W. wrote in the late 1930’s that described a successive 12 Step program of spiritual enlightening that ultimately should result in a “spiritual experience”.
The 12 Steps of AA contain the word God in four of the Steps, one reference to God as “Him”, and infers God in one step by referring to a Higher Power. God is mentioned, referenced or is inferred to in six of the 12 Steps. Is AA religious, and not spiritual?
The first question of the true nature of AA was first heard in 1988. In Youle v. Edgar, 526 NE 2d 894 - Ill: Appellate Court, 4th Dist. 1988. The Youle case touched briefly on the subject of AA being religious in nature and therefore a violation of the First Amendment. However, in this case, AA was ruled not religious in nature. In addition, AA was not forced on the plaintiff.
However, there have been a number of cases that have found AA is religious in nature and the coercion of the individuals to AA were found to be a violation of the First Amendment. Some of these cases have been decided at the state level and others have been in the federal courts. The cases of special interest are the cases that have been decided at the United States Courts of Appeals.
These United States Courts of Appeals cases are of special interest because these courts are the last court before a case can go before the U. S. Supreme Court. Furthermore, the Courts of Appeals divide the United States into 11 Circuits of Courts of Appeals. A decision in a Circuit court will not necessarily be followed in other Districts.
The State of the Law: 2008
A Cumulative Report on Legal Developments Affecting Government Partnerships With Faith-Based Organizations