The Freedom From Religion Foundation is alerting two dozen judges in Oklahoma about shocking constitutional violations occurring within the state’s courts.
It was brought to FFRF’s attention that the courts had regularly been sentencing nonviolent offenders to a program called Christian Alcoholics & Addicts in Recovery (“CAAIR”) for a one-year term in place of traditional drug rehabilitation programs or prison time. The CAAIR program markets itself as an intensive substance abuse recovery program, but the program’s clients get very little to nothing in the way of actual drug rehabilitation treatment.
“They receive only a heavy dose of religious indoctrination that is utterly repugnant to that most basic human right enshrined in our First Amendment – the freedom of conscience,” writes FFRF Staff Attorney Sam Grover. “From what we have learned, the depth of religious coercion in the CAAIR program is staggering.”
All CAAIR clients are required to attend church services every Sunday for the first four months of their term, as well as weekly bible study each Wednesday. A former CAAIR client reported to FFRF that drug and alcohol “counseling” sessions consisted almost entirely of watching Christian-themed films and church sermons. Furthermore, FFRF was informed that every few months a Christian acting troupe, “For His Glory Drama Ministries,” visits CAAIR to perform Christian-themed sketches. The troupe includes an actor playing Jesus. [See photo above.]
Attendance at CAAIR’s religious events is absolutely mandatory. Failure to report or tardiness can result in a loss of privileges or even expulsion from the program, which for most of the men would mean prison.
In addition to religious indoctrination, the conditions within the program are inhumane. The men are forced to work, day after day, in nauseating conditions without pay. CAAIR primarily functions as a source of free labor for several major chicken companies – most notably Simmons Foods and Tyson Foods. Former CAAIR clients report of grievous injuries from heavy machinery that are left untreated, abusive supervisors, and the omnipresent stench of chicken blood and feces. CAAIR was recently named in a federal class action lawsuit over its exploitative practices.
Federal courts uniformly agree that mandatory participation in religious programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, violates the Establishment Clause. It is indisputable that the CAAIR program is far more religiously coercive than Alcoholics Anonymous, and its inadequacy at rehabilitating offenders give it absolutely no secular purpose. For drug courts to send Oklahomans to CAAIR is a patent violation of the First Amendment.
FFRF is asking that the judges ensure that no drug courts under their supervision sentence offenders to CAAIR in the future and that a secular alternative be offered to all offenders currently enrolled in the program. Better yet, that all offenders be recalled from the program entirely.
“It is hard to imagine a more religiously compulsory environment,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “CAAIR is a not a drug rehabilitation program, it is a Christian proselytization center and labor camp. The courts must completely dissociate themselves from the program immediately.”
Letters were sent to Tulsa Veterans Treatment Court COURTS Program Director Tammy Westcott and district judges in Marshall County, Johnston County, Tulsa County, Stephens County, Seminole County, Rogers County, Pontotoc County, Ottawa County, Osage County, Okmulgee County, Murray County, McClain County, Mayes County, Love County, Guthrie County, Jefferson County, Hughes County, Grady County, Garvin County, Delaware County, Cleveland County, Carter County, Canadian County and Bryan County.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization with more than 29,000 members across the country, including members in Oklahoma. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.