In case you were wondering, here in the Ninth Circuit you can sue a government official for ordering you to believe in a higher power. That’s the takeaway from a Ninth Circuit opinion Friday (.pdf) that evolved from a case in which a judge ordered a Hawaiian man with a methamphetamine problem to attend AA and NA classes as a requirement of his probation.
The problem is that the man — who’s now deceased — was a Buddhist, and bristled at the programs’ requirement that he believe in a higher power. So Ricky Inouye turned around and sued his parole officer. Inouye, whose son is now pursuing his case, lost in a lower court when a judge ruled that, although the NA/AA requirement was a First Amendment violation, the probation officer had immunity as a government official.
Judge Marsha Berzon wrote that “because the law was clearly established at the time,” the probation officer is “not entitled to qualified immunity.”
— Justin Scheck