Atheists Complain, Rehab Nixes Religious Program

| by Nik Bonopartis
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A government-funded recovery home for drug addicts in Ohio has ditched religious-based treatment programs after a complaint by a nontheist group.

The Light House Sober Living Facility provides a home and services to 10 men recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. The men living there get job and life skills training, ongoing therapy and counseling and a range of other services to help them in their transition back to productive lives.

The home, which was opened with the help of a local judge, focused on promoting "a holistic approach to recovery, emphasizing on faith and spirituality," according to The Beacon, a local news publication. The facility itself is a former church converted into a living space, with the Bible verse Luke 19:13 engraved into the building.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation stepped in because Light House received a grant from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction to buy the old church, renovate it and help cover the cost of running the facility for its first three years. The grant totals $355,000, according to the Port Clinton News Herald.

That prompted Ryan Jayne, a legal fellow at the FFRF, to write a letter to Kirk Halliday, who runs the Mental Health and Addiction programs for the local county.

"The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment 'prohibits any sponsorship, financial support, and active involvement of the sovereign in any religious activity,' as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled," Jayne wrote. "Furthermore, the Ohio Constitution expressly prohibits the government from funding a place of worship, or from favoring any one religion. ... It would be disingenuous to argue that the Light House Sober Living facility does not promote religion over nonreligion."

While government agencies aren't always receptive to the FFRF's requests, Halliday wrote back and told the non-profit that the religious-based programming at Light House would be removed to comply with church-state regulations.

"Thank you for reminding us of the importance of the First Amendment," Halliday wrote in reply.

The FFRF said it considered the effort a victory.

"Organizations receiving taxpayer money should know that they can't push a religious agenda," said Dan Barker, co-president of the FFRF. "We're glad that the Light House Sober Living facility modified its program."

Sources: Freedom From Religion Foundation, The Beacon, Port Clinton News Herald / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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