Erie, PA

AU received a complaint that the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole required a parolee, as a condition of parole, to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. The Board required attendance at the AA and NA meetings, which contain religious content, despite a request for a secular alternative. In a letter to the Board, AU advised officials that coercing criminal offenders — either overtly by threat of punishment or subtly by providing incentives — to participate in a religious rehabilitation program violates the Establishment Clause. AU asked that the Board provide parolees with a secular alternative to AA and NA meetings, and that the Board allow parolees to opt out of all religious programming without suffering negative consequences. After receiving AU’s letter, the Board rescinded the requirement that the parolee attend AA and NA meetings, and allowed the parolee to seek treatment at an alternative venue.