National Foundation Questions Ohio Board of Nursing Policy

U.S.A. Ohio


May 21, 2004

John Brion, Executive Director

Ohio Board of Nursing

17 S High St, Suite 400

Columbus OH 43215-3413

Dear Mr Brion:

Our national organization works to uphold the constitutional principle of separation between church and state. We have been contacted by Ohio citizens regarding a situation at the Ohio Board of Nursing which concerns us.

We have been told that the Ohio Board of Nursing drug diversionary program has mandated that at-risk nurses regularly attending AA meetings (as often as three times a week) and obtain official AA sponsorship in order to retain licenses when a drug or alcohol abuse problem surfaces. Ohio nurses have been instructed at such AA meetings to pray daily, read religious literature and openly profess belief in a god.

We have been told that nurses who, in good conscience, cannot profess belief in a deity or ³higher power,²etc., have been disciplined, including loss of license, and have not been given a secular alternative.

We are sure you are aware of the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous is not a bonafide, tested, scientific program. In fact, it has resisted attempts to study and evaluate its efficacy, relying instead on emotional ³testimony² and self-reporting. This alone should concern the State of Ohio. But the religiously coercive aspect of AA is of primary concern here. Obviously, if someone is not religious or is uncomfortable with the religious aspects of this program, AA is not going to be beneficial ‹ the stress such coercion causes might instead ³drive them to drink.² There are secular alternatives available. Not to offer such alternatives or be open to genuine distress created by the program leaves the Ohio Board of Nursing open to litigation. and charges of religious harassment and religious establishment.

At least two Circuit Courts (and many lower level courts) have ruled that AA 12 step program (³Higher Power²) and related religious rehabilitation activities may not be imposed by the state. DeStefano v. Emergency Housing Group, Inc., 247 F.3d 397, 417-419 (2nd Circ. 2001) mandated that direct state funding of AA activities violates the Establishment Clause. The 7th Circuit in 1996 ruled specifically that the state could not force prisoners to participate in AA and religious rehabilitation programs, and must offer a secular alternative. Kerr v. Farrey, 95 F.3d 472 (7th Circ. 1996).

It is unlawful for the state of Ohio to require staff to read religious materials and attend religious services, and certainly to do so as part of their drug treatment programs. Under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, nonreligious staff have the same right as their religious peers to drug rehabilitation and the same right to attempt to successfully complete it and be eligible to continue jobs, retain licenses and seek promotion, etc. It would make far more sense to mandate attendance at a secular program, which would be offensive to none and is open to all.

The dictates of the 14th amendment would require the Ohio Nursing Board to permit a nurse to demonstrate that he or she is seeking adequate treatment from a private practitioner, not to dismiss such a request out of hand. Nor should there be a requirement that a nurse must attend group therapy for drug or alcohol abuse or in some other way skew the requirements in such a way that only AA treatment could conform to state demands.

We are deeply troubled by allegations that retribution has taken place when nurses have come to the Board with complaints about what appears to be religious requirements imposed on nurses seeking to stay in good standing.

We would appreciate hearing back from you on this matter at your earliest convenience. Please send us the Ohio Board of Nursing policy on attendance of AA meetings and any other relevant policies. If we have been correctly informed about your policies, it would appear there has been serious discrimination by the State of Ohio.


Annie Laurie Gaylor for the Freedom From Religion Foundation


5 Posts

May 21, 2004

Lemonhead Lilly strikes again!!!!!!!!!


63 Posts

Lemonhead Lilly strikes again!!!!!!!!!

How insulting!


228 Posts

Specializes in ER.
Lemonhead Lilly strikes again!!!!!!!!!


with all due respect, why do you care? is it true that a small grain of sand can really only irritate an already sore spot?

so she has a mission, is it anyones business that she publicly espouses an opinion that may not be identical to yours or mine?

all she seems to be doing is educating people that there are grave concerns, at least in the state of ohio, and possibly-no, probably- elsewhere as well? is censorship the way to get anywhere?

this seems like the same old thing over and over- nurses attacking nurses instead of the problem. No wonder theres a shortage.

if you don't like the opinions, dont read them, i certainly don't read anything that irritates me that much- that's why i don't go and read anything in the messages that suggest they support bush.

Nurse Ratched, RN

2,149 Posts

Specializes in Geriatrics/Oncology/Psych/College Health.

Let's let this one lie, folks. It's a legitimate topic. Personal attacks will get it pulled.

Interesting information.

Interesting information.

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