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Lawsuit Seeks to Exempt Atheist From AA Meetings

March 25, 1989|Religious News Service

The American Jewish Congress has filed a brief in support of an atheist convicted of drunk driving who has challenged a requirement that he attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings because he objects to their references to God.

In a brief filed in the Queen Anne County Circuit Court of Maryland, the AJC supported John Norfolk's objections to attending the AA meetings, which include a recital of the Lord's Prayer.

Although AA may be an effective treatment for many alcoholics, effectiveness alone cannot excuse state-compelled attendance at religious services, the brief says. According to an AJC news release, it stresses that even if the government proved that the sacrament of confession ensured sobriety or reduced crime, it still may not require probationers to participate in that religious rite.

"No decision of the Supreme Court, no opinion of any individual justice of the court, has ever suggested, let alone held, that government can compel attendance at religious services," the brief says.

A spokesman at AA's New York headquarters said the organization considers itself to be "spiritual" but not religious. The spokesman acknowledged that AA urges people to "develop a relationship with a higher power."

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