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Atheist Receives $2 Million Settlement in Rehab Case
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Summary: An atheist from California has been awarded close to $2 million in a settlement for a case stemming from a faith-based rehab program he was forced to attend. 

An atheist from California has won a settlement of close to $2 million after being sent to jail for a parole violation, according to a report from The Huffington Post.


The parole violation stemmed from objections he made about participating in a program that is faith-based.

The man has been identified as Barry A. Hazle, Jr. He served time for a possession of methamphetamine conviction back in 2007. As part of his parole, Hazle was enrolled in a drug treatment program. At the program, the members of the group were required to acknowledge belief in a higher power.

Hazle asked to be enrolled in a different program after complaining, but was informed that the only option in his area was based on faith. The program is called Westcare 12-step program.

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Hazle went back to prison for longer than three months for being “disruptive, though in a congenial way, to the staff as well as other students” and being “sort of passive-aggressive.”

“I’m thrilled to finally have this case settled,” Hazle said. “It sends a clear message to people in a position of authority, like my parole agent, for example, that they not mandate religious programming for their parolees, and for anyone else, for that matter.”

Hazle sued back in 2008 and won, but he was not awarded any damages because a jury refused to do so. The decision was then thrown out by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The three-judge panel said that Hazle was entitled to compensation.

“The jury’s verdict, which awarded Hazle no compensatory damages at all for his loss of liberty, cannot be upheld,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote in the court’s opinion. “The jury simply was not entitled to refuse to award any damages for Hazle’s undisputable — and undisputed — loss of liberty, and its verdict to the contrary must be rejected.”

Hazle will receive a $1 million payment from California and a $925,000 payment from Westcare, according to KRCR-TV.

This case has caused the Department of Corrections in California to remove their requirement for parolees to enroll in faith-based programs. The corrections department released the following statement:

“There was a finding of liability, which meant that CDCR would have been responsible for damages and attorney fees. In lieu of a second trial, CDCR negotiated a settlement in the amount of $1,000,000. Currently, CDCR does not require a 12-step program as a condition of parole.”

Should Hazle been forced to attend a faith-based rehab despite being atheist? Share your opinion in our poll.

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