Welcome to the Church of Humanism Blog

Here, as often as possible, the church founder Rev. Joseph Ben-David or other church members will comment on relevant topics of the day. You are all welcome to join in on the conversation by emailing your thoughts and opinons to the email address shown below.  We look forward to hearing from you.  

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A Happier 2021, We Hope!!

Greetings of the New Year.

I want to share with you something amazing. It’s an audio diary of 17-year-old Monaea, an African-American high school senior in Minneapolis.  

She tells us – her listeners – about the emotional and practical challenges she and her schoolmates are facing today with so many recent murders of young African-Americans – including George Floyd in Minneapolis – both by police and reckless citizens with guns, as well as with the frustrations of online schooling necessitated since October by the rapid rise of Covid-19.  

She speaks to us with insight, honesty, and humor.  But for me, the amazing and encouraging thing about Monaea’s diary is her determination and optimism, despite all these challenges, for starting college next fall.  

I discovered her audio diary last week on WNYC, but it’s now readily available as a SnapJudgment podcast and online at www.snapjudgment.orgI learned a lot, and Monaea’s voice and her story have stayed with me.  Let me know what you think.

The audio diary was produced by Vice News Reports.

With my best New Year's wishes, Alyson Ben-David

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Rehabs that Prey on Addicts

Recently I read a disturbing investigative report about work-based US rehab (for profit) businesses and how they are taking advantage of people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.  Some addicts enter these rehabs because family members can’t care for their loved ones; more often, addicts end up in these so-called ‘therapeutic’ addiction rehabs through the courts’ alternative sentencing programs, which sound preferable to imprisonment. 

Anyway, no matter how they get enrolled, the addicts and their family and friends are prohibited from seeing or even speaking to each other, and the addicts are forbidden to have contact with the outside world, under threat of being sent to prison.  The report exposes this and a trend of unfair labor and dehumanizing practices at these unlicensed facilities.  People in need of treatment and health care are being forced to work long hours, sometimes grueling hard labor, for no pay.    While these so-called rehab centers say they keep the pay of their participants to cover the cost of housing and treatment they are reportedly making huge financial profits off the cheap labor.  I think it’s modern day slavery! Furthermore, these treatment businesses believe in using verbal abuse and punishment as therapy to overcome addiction.  This unlawful money-making scheme and shameful treatment of vulnerable people is going on, unchecked, under the radar. 

Research on how best to treat people who are struggling “shows that the best outcomes result from medication-based approaches, using such proven pharmaceuticals as buprenorphine, combined with individualized counseling. Although a stable, paying job can aid recovery, studies have found that work alone is not an effective treatment for addiction.”1a So why do these unlicensed, unregulated work-based programs still exist? They certainly do not administer these proven medication-based methods or provide individual counseling.  This investigative report, I’m highlighting, has identified “at least 300 rehab facilities in 44 states that have required participants to work without pay. In recent years, at least 60,000 people a year attended such rehab programs.”1a They are thriving because these businesses are fueled by the current opioid crisis and by the war on drugs, which goes as far back as the Reagan administration.  To reduce overcrowded prisons and government spending, our court systems across the country are forcing convicted drug and alcohol addicts to choose either work-based rehab centers or jail.  These for-profit rehabs have a built-in supply-chain for their forced labor business.  It is shocking to also see that some of the judges participating in this human trafficking scheme stand to gain financially as part of their participation. 

I urge you to look at what is going on; share this information with your network of family and friends and with your congressional representatives and state representatives.  The “treatment” methods of these rehabs isn’t evaluated and it doesn’t work.  Stories told by former rehab enrollees are quite appalling.  I think it is important to get this information out to as many people as possible.  Someone must stand up for those that need help.  I also suggest letting the reporters breaking this story know that you support what they are doing.  This incredible ongoing story is being told by two investigative reporters, Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter.  They published their story on the Reveal website, which is part of the non-profit investigative journalism organization, the Center for Investigative Reporting.  Amy and Shoshana have been pursuing this story for the last three years. 

I hope you see the injustice the actions of these so-called rehab facilities are having on those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.  And I hope you will pass this information on to others.  We need to shed light on it so that our courts and government stop enabling these unlawful and abusive labor practices.  I welcome everyone’s feedback.  Click on the comment link below to submit your comments and feedback.  You can also E-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  I look forward to hearing from you.

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David Shapiro — This seems continuous with the prison industry. You've probably read about how in some states prisons lease out inmates, maybe not to break rock on chain gangs, but to work at very substandard wages at quite hazardous jobs such as at slaughterhouses. I do believe that remanding people to treatment rather than prison can result in some successes. When I worked with alcoholics in the late 1970s, my ciientele attended therapy as a condition of welfare, similar in being externally imposed. Although I was culturally unqualified to meet them on their own ground, I think I connected with and may have provided lasting help to one or two. (My interest in doing that sort of work came to a fair extent from my experience at the NY Humanist Society.) I also have read about prison systems in which inmates earn GEDs, successfully learn trades, learn to take on and are paid for functions within the prison, and manage to leverage this into jobs after their release, despite being ex-cons. But then there's this: I have graduate training that would qualify me to work in D&A rehab, and if I hadn't it would be easy enough to earn such credentials. But I wouldn't do it. Nor would I work in a nursing home. Or a continuing care facility. (This is aside from COVID.) So long as people of good will aren't willing to do the work, it falls in the hands of less caring, less scrupulous sorts. I have a good friend from grad school who retired some years ago from a career as a prison psychologist. He's pretty cynical about the people he served there. But at the same time, he and his wife have for several years provided shelter for an otherwise homeless man. He's a rare sort; there aren't that many like him....