Thursday, September 13, 2007

More on the recent court case about AA/NA and religion

The recent court case holding that AA and NA were religious comes as no surprise. Two other federal circuits, including the middle-of-the-road Second Circuit (NY) and the conservative Seventh Circuit (Chicago) had already said so in the 1990s. See my New Recovery blog; see for the older cases.

What's surprising in the opinion is the lukewarm endorsement given to the 12-step programs' efficacy. On the surface, the court nods to the "fine work of AA/NA," but footnote 10 to that passage is much more equivocal. The footnote says:

The confidential nature of AA/NA treatment makes testing efficacy difficult. There is, however, some data to suggest that the programs, as part of a larger treatment strategy, have helped many people maintain their sobriety, at least for a period of time. See Max Dehn, How It Works: Sobriety Sentencing, The Constitution, and Alcoholics Anonymous, 10 MICH. ST. U. J. MED. & L. 255, 269-74 (compiling efficacy data).
"Some data to suggest ... many people ... at least for a period of time" is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

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