Secular Dissent: Protecting Non-Believers from Coercive Religious Parole Programs

Grudzina, Phillip | January 1, 2016

It is common practice for states to contract with third party organizations to run their parole rehabilitation programs. A majority of these organizations emphasize religious themes as a means of recovery from alcohol and substance abuse problems. However, for parolees who reject a belief in God, there are rarely any secular alternatives available. Those whom object are often given the choice between forced participation in religious activities or revocation of their parole. For years, courts have held that such practices violate parolees’ First Amendment rights. Nonetheless, most states have failed to implement policies to prevent such violations from reoccurring. Due to the country’s increasingly secular population, it is becoming more important that states do so. Existing laws, such as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, should be used to guide new reforms to protect parolees whom object to religious rehabilitation programs.