After exhausting all avenues in the Michigan courts, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan today filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Catholic man who was criminally punished for not completing a Pentecostal drug rehabilitation program.
Twenty-three-year-old Joseph Hanas of Genesee County pled guilty in the Genesee Circuit Court to a charge of marijuana possession in February 2001. He was placed in a “drug court” for non-violent offenders, allowing for a deferred sentence and dismissal of the charges if he successfully completed the Inner City Christian Outreach Residential Program.
Unbeknownst to Hanas when he entered the program, one of the goals of Christian Outreach was to convert him from Catholicism to the Pentecostal faith. He was forced to read the bible for seven hours a day and was tested on Pentecostal principles. The staff also told him that Catholicism was a form of witchcraft and they confiscated both his rosary and Holy Communion prayer book. At one point, the program director told his aunt that he “gave up his right of freedom of religion when he was placed into this program.” Hanas was told that in order to complete the program successfully he would have to proclaim his salvation at the altar and was threatened that if he did not do what the pastor told him to do, he would be “washed of the program and go to prison.”
After seven weeks of receiving no drug treatment whatsoever and being prohibited from attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, Hanas requested placement in a secular drug treatment program. Although a judge acknowledged that Hanas was not being allowed to practice his own religion, and was pressured to convert to the Pentecostal faith, his request was denied.
What more can I say about this? I'm just a dirty little Catholic.
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