A godless drug offender who was serving his parole
Was remanded to a program where they tried to save his soul
He denies a god exists—a “higher power” is their phrase—
So they threw him back in prison for another hundred days
Now, this differential treatment was unlawful (also, rude)
So the godless drug offender (and his lawyer, likely) sued.
The state had caused him injury, the judge could not deny
100 days in prison cos he wouldn’t tell a lie
The atheist could not deny, the bible isn’t buyable,
And since California locked him up, the state was clearly liable
A convicted drug offender, he was clearly no one’s hero,
When the judge awarded damages—the jury added, “zero”.
Now the Circuit Court has spoken, with the facts beyond dispute;
Sent the case back to a jury, with the warning “don’t get cute”
So, yeah, jury, you may not like the fact that an atheist convicted drug offender sued the state (of California) because they did not have a drug treatment program that did not require him to believe in a god… but seriously, the man was thrown back in prison for 100 days because he wouldn’t say he believed in a higher power, and this is worth nothing?
SAN FRANCISCO — California should compensate an atheist parolee for returning him to prison after he resisted participating in a religious-based drug treatment program, a federal appeals court decided unanimously Friday.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said a jury should award Barry A. Hazle Jr., a drug offender, compensatory damages for his loss of freedom and could consider possible punitive and emotional distress damages as well.
What was the case about?
After Hazle served a prison term, California ordered him to spend 90 days in a residential 12-step program. Hazle said he was atheist and asked for a secular program instead. But state officials told him they had none to offer.
Staff at the state-required treatment center reported that Hazle was disruptive “in a congenial way.” The state revoked his parole and put him back in prison for 100 days. He sued.
A Sacramento federal judge determined that Hazle had clearly suffered a violation of his constitutional rights and ordered a jury to assess monetary damages. The jury awarded zero damages.
100 days in prison, that any religious believer (or non-believer willing to lie) would not have had to suffer. But hey, he was on parole. A drug offender. An atheist. The judge asked for a reasonable damage amount, and the jury stepped up and said “nothing.” That was back in 2010 (the initial sentence was in 2007)
“Given the indisputable fact of actual injury resulting from Hazle’s unconstitutional imprisonment, and the district judge’s finding that the state defendants were liable for that injury, an award of compensatory damages was mandatory,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a Jimmy Carter appointee, wrote for the panel.
The court said another jury must be convened to determine Hazle’s compensation.
The comments at the story are actually not terrible, too, if you go for that sort of thing.
Edit–there is also the actual court decision here (thanks, screechymonkey), which is well worth reading.