Democratic efforts to ensure that Alcoholics Anonymous welcomes secular groups – and doesn’t delist them as was done in Toronto and Vancouver – were launched in both Canada and the United States on Sunday.
Many, many thanks are owed to Mike B. and John S. for writing these motions and having the courage to present them.
Mike B., from Oliver, British Columbia, presented his motion to District 68 and reports:
I attended the district meeting and had an opportunity to give a talk on the issue and present my motion. There was considerable interest and discussion… They tabled my motion until the next district meeting in September. I am dismayed how few members know anything about this issue but I’m sure a few more newspaper articles and some progress on the human rights front and we will start getting a lot more attention and support.
John S., from Kansas City, presented his motion directly to the Area Assembly for Western Missouri. He reports:
I asked that the General Service Conference request that anytime GSO is asked for direction from an Intergroup regarding whether or not to list an agnostic group, they should always answer unambiguously “welcome them with open arms”. I cited the situation in Toronto, AA tradition, etc….
These motions are a remarkably effective means to bring our secular movement – and our problems within AA – to the attention of our fellowship. Mike is absolutely correct when he talks about “how few members know about this issue”.
There are a total of 93 AA Areas in North America. Motions to welcome agnostic AA groups have now been presented in two of them. That leaves 91. Let’s get to it!
This could be the main topic at the General Service Conference in 2017 but it’s up to us to make that happen.
Kudos again to Mike and John.
Mike’s motion is here:
AA Area 79 Motion
To reverse the delisting and disenfranchising of secular AA groups in Vancouver and Toronto by the intergroup committees in those cities.
B. Background Information:
- Approximately 5 years ago the Greater Toronto Area Intergroup (GTAI) and the Vancouver Area Intergroup (VAI) committees delisted a number of secular AA groups by refusing to list their meetings in the community meeting guides (printed and online) and furthermore banned secular intergroup representatives from voice and vote at intergroup meetings.
- This unacceptable situation has continued for over 5 years despite the ongoing efforts of secular groups to be reinstated.
- As a last resort, a member of a Toronto secular AA group has filed a charge of discrimination with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against the GTAI, the AA General Service Board and AA World Services. The discrimination charge is based on the fact that the same rights and services provided to all other AA groups and members are being restricted, withheld and denied to secular AA groups and their members; based on creed and secular non -belief in god. The Tribunal preliminary hearing has now been upgraded to a full hearing with all parties ordered to respond in writing to all questions from the Chair within 35 days.
C. Supporting Documentation:
Please find attached the following documents:
- “AA Atheists and Human Rights” by Roger C. dated Feb. 21, 2016.
- “Alcoholics Anonymous accused of discrimination” by Michele Mandel dated Feb. 19, 2016. Newspaper article from Toronto Sun.
- “Does religion belong at AA? Fight over ‘God’ splits Toronto AA groups” dated June3, 2011 by Leslie Scrivener. Newspaper article from Toronto Star.
D. Action Required:
- This motion requires passing at the District 68 meeting on March 13th, 2016. From there it needs to be taken forward by our DCM, as an emergency motion, to the BC/Yukon area pre-conference assembly held on April 8, 2016.
- When passed at the Area 79 pre-conference assembly our area 79 delegate should take the emergency motion forward to the General Service Conference in New York April 17-23, 2016.
- It is important that this motion move forward with the utmost urgency to mitigate potential bad public relations, financial penalties and negative public opinion.
- It is certain that many rulings will come out of the Human Rights Tribunal before the next AA General Service Conference in 2017. If we get on this thing now we should be able to head off most of the impending damage and settle this unity destroying crisis once and for all.
- This injustice needs to be made right by making secular members and groups whole.
- Instead of marginalising and excluding secular members and groups why not try being more welcoming, accepting and inclusive to this rapidly growing sector of AA.
- Let’s make AA more proactive in accepting secular AA groups and members in order that AA may become more attractive, inclusive, relevant and effective in the future treatment of alcoholism; for all alcoholics!
- The unacceptable actions of GTAI and VAI have led to a Human Rights Tribunal action against AA and that such action has and will continue to create negative publicity for our fellowship.
- The Tribunal could award severe financial penalties against AA.
- That the actions of GTAI and VAI contravene many of the traditions and principles of AA including:
- Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do not govern. Since when do intergroup committees decide what groups are in good standing with all rights and privileges of membership? When were they given the power to decide what constitutes an AA group and the right to expel those that don’t meet their standards?
- Each AA member has the right to believe or not believe in a higher power. They do not need to believe in any god or deity!
- AA group conscience is based on the democratic process within each group. Any 2 or 3 members may call themselves an AA group providing they have no outside affiliation. Non- belief in god does not constitute an outside affiliation.
- Secular AA groups should not be excluded from any level of AA service because they do not believe in god or interpret the 12 steps without God.
- Lack of action and silence on this issue by districts, areas, GSO and the Board of Trustees is unacceptable and may well be construed by the Human Rights Tribunal as condoning the actions of the GTAI and VAI intergroup committees.
- AA’s creed of love and tolerance cannot be attained using the tools of discrimination, hatred, bigotry and exclusion of members or groups based on creed; their belief or lack of belief in any god.
Therefore be it resolved:
That every means, at all levels of AA service (districts, areas, GSO, General Service Conference, AAWS Inc. and Board of Trustees), be taken immediately to rectify the discriminatory practices within our fellowship that presently exist against AA secular members and groups. Be it further resolved that the corrective action be taken as quickly as possible to mitigate any further legal action, financial penalties and minimize and reduce negative public criticism. The unity of our fellowship is paramount in resolving this issue.
F. Submitted by:
The Fellowship Group