"Enduring Strength" by frankieleon / CC BY 2.0

Atheist nurse’s fight against mandatory AA will go before B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

Jun 18, 2019

By Bethany Lindsay

A B.C. nurse who lost his job when he refused to attend a 12-step program for addiction will get a chance to argue he was discriminated against as an atheist.

Byron Wood contends Alcoholics Anonymous’s emphasis on placing your life in the hands of a higher power simply won’t work for someone who doesn’t hold any religious beliefs.

That’s an argument worth considering, according to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. On Wednesday, it denied Vancouver Coastal Health’s application to dismiss Wood’s complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of religion.

“The tribunal has not [previously] considered whether the 12‐step program utilized by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous … may discriminate against persons with substance abuse disorders who are atheists,” tribunal member Walter Rilkoff wrote in Wednesday’s decision.

“In my view, there is a public interest in addressing that issue.”

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