12 steps: Indoctrination under the pretext of recovery.
As an atheist working for a civil rights organization, I’m deeply concerned by Christian-based organizations (non-profit and for-profit) whose primary purpose is to indoctrinate those outside of their faith under the pretext of a recovery or health facility. The multi-billion dollar addiction industry is seething with Christian propaganda and advanced by fear, falsehoods, and governmental assistance. Teen Challenge (TC), for example, is a manipulative, faith-based pseudo-recovery program with a location in Louisville, Kentucky. The website states, “[b]y applying biblical principles, Teen Challenge endeavors to help people become mentally sound, emotionally balanced, socially adjusted, physically well, and spiritually alive.” Translation: indoctrination. Moreover, the facility does not participate in any evidence-based treatment options in order to combat the real effects of drug or alcohol abuse such as detoxification, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or neuro-feedback. Rather, TC is simply a home for recovering addicts and creates an atmosphere in which they prey upon the vulnerability of the patient in order to steer them towards a Christian way of life. On their website, TC states: “[w]e will not coerce or force any student against their will to stay in the TC program…however will do all in our power to encourage her to make a good decision.” TC makes it clear: a “good decision” must be a Christian one. Conversely, a bad decision is the secular variety that (upon further prodding) ultimately devastates the patient’s family and undoubtedly results in premature death. As Sam Harris likes to say, “This is how you play tennis without the net.”
Patients and their family members are fed the notion that addiction is a disease which is perpetuated by falsely revered and deceptive 12-step programs that force one to consent to the notion that they are not in control of their lives and the only solution is to submit to Christ in order to find purpose, contentment, and well-being. Sound familiar? The goal is to destroy the individual and replace it with an obedient, unthinking, automaton that views absolute faith as the highest virtue. Now, addiction is immensely complicated; there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ remedy and if any of you or your loved ones have or have previously suffered from alcohol or drug dependency, my heart goes out to you. Indeed, it can be an arduous journey. But we must all be aware of the many tactics put in place by organizations like TC that seize upon the vulnerability of those truly suffering. And although TC maintains that participation is strictly voluntary, that rationale does not protect them from their overtly discriminatory practices. In the application available online, TC clearly discriminates against non-Christian patients by not allowing them to wear secular clothing or “read non-spiritual or non-devotional books”, they must participate in all chapel and church services, they must agree to “conduct [oneself] in a Christ-like manner” and utilize “Christian forms of behavior”, they must refrain from using any doctor-prescribed medications necessary for those suffering from a mental disability, and they must “adhere to the [Assembly of God’s] positions on religious issues including but not limited to sexuality [and] marriage…” For an organization supposedly available for all citizens, they certainly do a great job of excluding millions of them.
For further reading, here’s an interesting article regarding the ineffectiveness of 12 steps and AA: (http://www.npr.org/2014/03/23/291405829/with-sobering-science-doctor-debunks-12-step-recovery).