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Humanists Object to Religious 12-Step Program for Massachusetts Doctor

American Humanist Association says alternative secular programs must be an option

For Immediate Release
Contact: Brian Magee, 202-238-9088 ex 105, bmagee@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, DC, April 10, 2013) — The American Humanist Association’s legal center has requested state medical authorities remedy a constitutional violation that has taken place when a Massachusetts doctor has had his medical license suspended for failing to attend a religious 12-step program mandated by the state medical board without providing a secular alternative

The Massachusetts State Board of Registration in Medicine (BRM) violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution when it required a physician to attend religious 12-step substance abuse treatment programs Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) to keep his license. Even though the doctor made clear his religious views were not in line with these programs, he was not permitted to choose a secular substance abuse program, such as SMART Recovery, and his license was suspended Feb. 6.

“In light the clear command of law that those who may coerce anyone into substance abuse treatment must inform them of secular alternatives, BRM clearly needs to change its policies and practices to bring them in line with the Constitution,” the letter sent to the BRM states. “Secular programs must be presented on equal footing with 12-Step ones in every regard, including discussions with doctors and in all BRM materials presented or made available to them.”

Attorneys for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center are waiting for a reply from state authorities.


The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 160 local chapters and affiliates across America. Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation and The Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

Image courtesy Ramberg Media, Flickr