Toronto Intergroup Yields to Agnostics in AA

Yield Featured

By Roger C.

It’s over.

After a scorching battle that lasted almost six years, agnostic groups will once again be listed on the Greater Toronto Area AA meeting list and be recognized as  full, participating members of the GTA Intergroup. And we can interpret and share our own non-godly versions of the Steps, if and as we wish.

As it was put by an Intergroup representative (Mark C from the Welcome Group) at its meeting on Tuesday, January 31: “There is no policing in AA”.

(Ironic, because four self-appointed AA cops showed up at a Widening Our Gateway meeting on a Sunday in late November 2011 and, sure enough, they concluded that there was evidence of “tampered steps”. The group was subsequently booted out of the GTA Intergroup.)

Intergroup had no choice but to yield, really.

As announced in its Quarterly Report (October 2016), the AA General Service Office was planning to cut off its ties with the Greater Toronto Area Intergroup (GTAI):

A motion was made that A.A.W.S, Inc. remove all database directory listings of the Greater Toronto Area Intergroup based on their response to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal that they are a religious organization. The motion was adopted unanimously by the A.A.W.S. board.

Let me explain.

Human Rights Code

Click on the image to read about the Human Rights Code “which continues to make Ontario a more just, equitable and inclusive society”.

Larry K, a member of the We Agnostics group, one of the two agnostic groups booted out by the GTAI way back in May 2011, launched a complaint against Intergroup with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal on September 18, 2014. He claimed that he and the groups, which had their own secular versions of the 12 Steps, were being discriminated against based on religious creed.

The Tribunal indeed views that as a form of discrimination, as stated in its Code:

Every person has the right to be free from discriminatory or harassing behaviour that is based on religion or which arises because the person who is the target of the behaviour does not share the same faith. This principle extends to situations where the person who is the target of such behaviour has no religious beliefs whatsoever, including atheists and agnostics who may, in these circumstances, benefit from the protection set out in the Code.

Two hearings were held (October 22, 2015 and January 13, 2016) and the position of the GTAI was as follows, as reported by the the Tribunal:

The respondent, GTAI, submits that the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) recovery program follows 12 steps and that these steps involve a belief in God. GTAI submits that evidence indicates that its purpose is to practice the 12 steps and practice a belief in God. In order to be part of GTAI, a group must be prepared to practice the 12 steps and thus the members of the group must have a belief in God…  GTAI also submits that it is a bona fide requirement that groups that wish to be part of this intergroup must have a belief in the higher power of God.

You see, the only time you can legitimately ban non-believers, according to the Human Rights Code is if, well, you are a religious organization. That is permitted by Section 18 of the Code where an organization identifies itself as a “special interest organization”. In this case, a religious organization.

Well, you can imagine where this is going.

The GSO’s decision to “de-list” the Greater Intergroup came just before two mediation sessions between Larry and the GTAI, held on November 18, 2016 and January 18, 2017. The Tribunal asks every person who files a human rights application (the Applicant) and every person or organization responding to a human rights application (the Respondent(s)) to participate in mediation in order to attempt to reach a settlement, that is, to resolve the issues raised in the application without going to a formal hearing.

And that’s where the GTAI yielded to the GSO. And yielded to agnostics in AA. In the settlement document, the Greater Toronto Area Intergroup does a complete about-face and acknowledges that a group can be recognized as a participating group in the GTA Intergroup “regardless of the specific beliefs or practices of the group members or the group as a whole”.

The GTAI released a report at its monthly meeting on January 31, 2017, a meeting I attended.

While the GTAI maintains that an AA group needs to “acknowledge” or “adopt” the 12 Steps, 12 Traditions and 12 Concepts of AA, acknowledgement is not a problem. It is simply history. The reading of the secular 12 Steps at Beyond Belief has always been preceded with the statement, “This version is adapted from the original 12 Steps which were first published in 1939 in Chapter 5 of Alcoholic Anonymous.”

Nothing has changed or will. That’s just history.

In a full concession to we agnostics in AA, and our rights within the fellowship, the report goes on to state:

GTA Intergroup acknowledges that the manner in which individual AA members or groups of AA members interpret and apply the Steps and Traditions in their own lives is a matter for those individuals alone.

Those words are the very essence of what the GTAI had to do to achieve a Human Rights Tribunal settlement.

Still, the GTAI fails to understand its own failings and the damage it has done to alcoholics and to the fellowship. One of the paragraphs in its report is particularly bizarre: “It has been, and remains, the GTAI’s position that there has been no discrimination against the complainant, or indeed anyone else, let alone on the prohibited ground of creed”.

Get real.

The GTAI booted groups out – Beyond Belief and We Agnostics on May 31, 2011 and Widening Our Gateway on April 24, 2012 – simply because the groups don’t buy the idea that God is the source of their sobriety. That’s not discrimination against the complainant? Or anyone else? That’s not discrimination based upon the prohibited ground of creed?

What is it then?

The GTAI does however concede that when Larry first went to them to express his concerns, “the response to those concerns was not as constructive as it could have been”.

No, really? I mean, it only took five years. And legal action. And a threat from the GSO.

It makes one wonder whether the GTAI is aware of and/or respects Tradition Three (“The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking”).

Ultimately, Intergroup had little choice but to yield to we agnostics in AA.

It had to put aside its religious dogmatism and recognize, if only reluctantly and certainly not wholeheartedly, that the way “individual AA members or groups of AA members interpret and apply the Steps and Traditions in their own lives is a matter for those individuals alone”.

That is AA. Or AA as it was meant to be, before and after the behaviour that the GTAI displayed because a few had the gall to ignore its dogmatic my way or the highway approach to recovery in AA. “All people must necessarily rally to the call of their own particular convictions and we of AA are no exception.” Bill Wilson said that. He was right.

Let us end this article with something that needs to be said, and I am very happy to say it, and share it.

Thank you Larry!

We can only imagine what you have gone through over the past five years. But you rather heroically did the right thing. Your work is without a doubt important for we agnostics in AA. And it is without a doubt crucial for AA, if it is to move forward.

YouTube Audio

134 Responses

  1. Peter G. says:

    The battle is still far from over. I did not attend this meeting as I had to work.


    “6. Issue within the program “Bridging the Gap’ that, as the contact for District 36 Corrections the experience and understanding of “SECULAR” mtgs within our meeting list employ “Alternative steps” in lieu of AA-approved 12 Steps. As the contact, I will NOT be exposing these meetings, given that SECULAR “alternative facts” are genuinely recognized as falsehoods to “real facts.” GSO staff has confirmed. AA groups are not granted permission to change AA steps for reason that this has the potential to dilute the AA message and confuse those new to AA.

    DISCUSSION: Tony G. states that in “How it Works” the program specifically identifies that “thoroughly follow our path” prevents failure. The Book “ Alcoholics Anonymous “and the 12 Steps of AA are a way of life. The “SECULAR” groups should not be in the District and that this is the reason that he has moved on to another District. He agrees with the fact that it would be correct in supporting this. Do not take a new comer to these meeting. They are affiliated with and violate AA Traditions. Mike G. agreed with points made. Secular should remain by themselves as he got sober in AA and wants this program to remain together as it has always been. No further discussion on this issue and the vote was taken that the position for the Chairman of District 36 Corrections Committee who is the contact for “Bridging the Gap” to NOT take the inmate to a SECULAR meeting as a method of introducing them to AA on the outside.

    All were in favor and this issue is RESOLVED.”

    Anyone wishing to have the complete minutes of the Correction meetings can email me.

    Peter G. (

    • larry k says:

      Unfortunate. I hope their battle doesn’t lead to AA being disqualified from the jail system in Canada because of the tradition 10 (long form) violation of AA expressing an opinion on sectarian matters. It has been a concern of mine throughout the publicly funded treatment/recovery process in Ontario and the rest of Canada.

      • Bill D says:

        Larry. Did I miss something? Please bring me up to date if so. My understanding was that the general service board moved unanimously to delete GTAI data from it’s data base because GTAI declared ITSELF religious as a defense to your actions. Other than stating this action to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and it’s rationale for doing so what may have been the violation? Appears that only GTAI acted inappropriately. I certainly hope AA remains a vital force behind the walls.

        My personal opinion is that the General Service Board is punting and kicking the can down the road hoping it will all “go away”. Already five jurisdictions here in the States have declared AA religious and cannot coerce anyone to attend AA meetings as a condition of probation if it violates their beliefs and must make alternative modes of treatment available. The chickens are coming home to roost.

    • Bill D says:

      ” GSO staff has confirmed. AA groups are not granted permission to change AA steps for reason that this has the potential to dilute the AA message and confuse those new to AA.” Please direct me to anywhere within AA this statement is published. This is absolutely not true. GSO has never interfered with group autonomy (Trad 4), regarding the steps or any other matter.

      “…affiliated with and violate AA Traditions.” Other than AA members using AA Agnostica as a forum to freely express their thoughts please point to instances of affiliation.

      “Mike G… he got sober in AA and wants this program to remain together as it has always been.”

      I got sober in AA also and remain a member because I say I am (Trad 3) and refuse to be censured because my beliefs (or lack thereof) conflict with anyone else’s.

      Pitiful to contemplate anyone coming out from behind the walls that may be denied a full chance at recovery because of the narrow-mindedness expressed at the cited meeting.

  2. Richard J. says:

    The Toronto Star has an article about this which can be viewed on line. I wouldn’t say that the GTAI is jumping up and down with joy. I don’t think the tenth step is going to come into play. The humility to know when one is wrong is required for that.

    Agnostic alcoholics welcomed back into AA fold.

    • Dave J says:

      Thanks for the link. What a grudging, half-assed acknowledgement of the legal realities of the situation. In the article, GTAI states “the matter of the complaint and the settlement is best left to the collective conscience of the AA members in the Greater Toronto Area.”

      No, GTAI. You usurped the collective conscience and made executive decisions on this matter. A moot point given “the matter of the complaint” was settled by the actions of Larry, Toronto’s Human Rights Legal Support Centre and indirectly, GSO.

      GTAI finishes it’s “half-measures” response, warning members to follow step 10, avoid talking to the media and avoid all controversy.

      A controversy IT created and sustained.

  3. Paul S. says:

    That’s a great article. I live in Australia and use a website “Hello Sunday Morning” as my primary recovery tool now due to this sort of dogmatic and rigid approach that seems to be growing in AA.

    After ten years, thousands of meetings, and hundreds of relapses I’ve finally had to get to my own strength in recovery to challenge the dogma when I do go to meetings now, and state and own my own beliefs.

    Through the steps I’ve discovered my own beliefs and truths and owning those fearlessly is part of my recovery – attempted compliance with rigid preachers of sponsorship and the steps simply set me up for eventual rebellion and drinking while making my own interpretation of the steps as valid as anyone else’s has seen the promises manifest in my life.

    This self-righteous attitude exhibited by GTIA is an example of the sort of narrow mindedness that has seen me drift away from AA – without taking on the fear based dogma of “if you don’t go to meetings you’ll drink” either. I believe these sort of attitudes make it harder for anyone with a drinking problem to get help,

    Surely the concept of an alcoholic being supported and loved by others is a concept that should see meetings be places where any new attendee can simply see kind, gentle, relaxed, recovered alcoholics behaving with acceptance and tolerance. “Acceptance and tolerance of others is our code” is a concept that invites people to return.

    Rigid preaching about sponsorship, the steps, getting a home group, etc simply scares people off. Regardless of what people believe themselves, I’ve found when they allow me to find my own way then I’m interested in exploring my alcohol free path and finding through the steps a new freedom, however when I’m swamped with dogma, advice, or as is common nowadays, criticism and ostracism then I simply have to respect myself enough to look for other recovery options – a sad state of affairs for many seeking help with drinking who haven’t my depth of AA experience to give them perspective in how to embrace recovery and at the same time create personal safety and personal meaning within AA.

    That word, “safety”, is one here that seems to me to be of paramount importance. Making the world of AA safe for any and all who seek recovery surely must be more important than rigidly and fearfully clinging to narrow definitions of the steps and a God – based on a book written by men with lengths of recovery now scoffed at by many AA members.

    Many in AA have done not much other than stop drinking for an extended period and then due to lengthy periods without a drink, many seem to assume that they have a certain superiority over others.

    Glad to see the GTIA have been dragged into line – I’d suggest a good clean out of their members might help even more but again sadly, many office holders in AA love the status they confer upon themselves and cling to these bodies in order to maintain their positions of power.

    • Bill D says:

      G’day mate from the states….nicely put. ‘Specially that last bit “many office holders in AA love the status they confer upon themselves and cling to these bodies in order to maintain their positions of power.” We’ll never get higher than sober in this Fellowship and that part of the 2nd Tradition regarding trusted servants says so.

      • Roke K. says:

        El Laicismo amplia la puerta de acceso a AA. Eso de no aferrarse a ninguna secta, religión, organización o institución alguna. Aquello de no respaldar ni oponerse a ninguna causa, nos junta con una solidez llena de fortaleza. F24H. RK.

        • Roger says:

          A Google translation: Secularism widens the gateway to AA. That of not clinging to any sect, religion, organization or any institution. That of not supporting or opposing any cause, brings us together with a solid strength.

      • Dave J says:


  4. Roger says:

    The agnostic and atheist groups booted out are now back on the GTA Intergroup Meeting List (the third group, Widening Our Gateway, held its last meeting on Dec. 13, 2016):

    GTAI List

    • Larry K says:

      Widening Our Gateway did suspend its meetings in December. But its sister meeting, Newmarket Freethinkers, is celebrating two years on February 15th. Best wishes and thoughts to John M. who is in ICU today. He was the voice of reason at Intergroup and started Widening Our Gateway, which was delisted shortly thereafter.

    • Thomas B. says:

      This is excellent, Roger, and Larry — THANK YOU again !~!~!

      But as others have indicated, there is still much work to continue to do to insure that our vibrant and legitimate minority voice within AA is not drowned out by the majoritarianism tyranny of thinking that was demonstrated in “The White Paper” and the Mt. Rainier, MD diatribe.

  5. Dave J says:

    A very special thanks to Larry and everyone involved in helping to force this outcome. GSO did what it had to do. It ONLY took the actions it did because Larry’s legal challenge essentially boxed it in.

    Organizationally, AA loves to claim it is a spiritual, not religious organization. It’s literature is theistic in both terminology and usage; it repeatedly talks about the “necessary” nature of a personal relationship with a higher power.

    GSO has always sought to maintain it’s theistic roots and yet, somehow, not be held accountable for how it prescribes, shapes and reinforces this specific form of belief. Unfortunately, only the “choir” believes that simply stating AA is spiritual, not religious, is sufficient. State courts in the U.S. have not supported this belief. At least 3 District Courts in the U.S. have disagreed.

    For GSO to decide BEFORE the two scheduled mediation sessions between Larry and the GTAI that they would “delist” the intergroup is telling. Doing so made it a moot point that the literature or the “steps” would enter into record and judged “explicitly religious.” GSO does NOT want that.

    There is already some discussion that, indeed, GTAI might continue to pursue its war against secularists. TODAY, their web site STILL carries the following message: “An AA group needs to adopt or acknowledge only the 12 Steps, 12 Traditions and 12 Concepts of AA, as adopted by the AA General Service Board, in order to be recognized as an AA group by GTA Intergroup.”

    GTAI lists 519 meetings. For contrast, Area 72, Western Washington AA, lists 3,839 meetings. We have no loyalty oath. We also have a specific category when registering groups or searching for groups: “atheist/agnostic.”

    It is in the wording on the GTAI site where the next battle will be fought. Sooner or later, GSO will have to fundamentally and specifically acknowledge that it’s steps, traditions and concepts are religious. Until then, it will seek to avoid and to obfuscate. It is one thing to “allow” atheists/agnostics to be members, it is another thing to examine the underpinnings of its literature, organizational practices and culture which unfairly and erroneously characterizes, discounts and marginalizes our experience.

    • Murray J. says:

      When the motion to delist agnostic/atheist groups was presented it ultimately required the groups in the GTAI to vote on it. Presumably a similar action will be required to reverse it? So, am I naive to propose that an Intergroup rep present a motion on the floor of GTAI to have that item removed?

  6. Gabe S says:

    Thank you Larry. Very well done. And well done AAWS (GSO, GSB…)

  7. Chuck F says:

    As a Humanist/Atheist sober AA member for over 39 continuous years and as a “founding member” of Canberra Australia’s first Atheist/Agnostic AA meeting (Friday nights at the public library) I applaud the precedent that Larry (and others) have achieved in Toronto for AA worldwide!

    You can tell him the kerfuffle in Toronto inspired us to create our group many months ago!

  8. Gabe S says:

    Brilliant! Thanks Larry and very well done. And well done AAWS Board (GSO, GSB or whoever made that happen).

  9. Deirdre says:

    This was an important victory! Thank you to Larry and all the fellowship of the non prayer meetings in Toronto who had to go through this long and painful process.

  10. Neal M. says:

    Thanks Larry and Roger. This whole fiasco led to the spread of atheist and agnostic AA by leaps and bounds. I had not been involved with AA for many years when I first read about this in the mainstream press here in Southwestern Virginia of all places. I first came around AA in the mid 80’s and never even knew that there was such a thing as an agnostic meeting. I know now!

  11. Kit G says:

    Bravo! Your struggles in Toronto provided just the resentment I needed along with a coffeepot to start our own secular meeting here. The law of unintended consequences rides again!

  12. Kenn C says:

    Thank you for your persistence Larry!

    I would challenge those who have previously scoffed to attend any one of the now re-listed meetings!

  13. Lance B. says:

    Thank you Larry, Roger, and, I suppose, even GTAI. Without GTAI’s actions I don’t suppose we would have consolidated in 2014 and become increasingly articulate in our positions.

    We will not be changing the dogma of most members of AA, but I think that at least we have gained some credibility as the “real” AA.

    These are my first reactions to the news you explain so well, Roger. And I look forward to all the thoughtful responses I’ve yet to read. It will be a joy to do so next.

  14. Joe A. says:

    That is great news.

  15. George says:

    First…..Thank You, Larry! Just over a year ago we started a secular format meeting in New Jersey. Last night, it was my pleasure to present the information in the above article at our meeting. It was warmly received by believers and non-believers alike. I will continue to share this information with AA’s whenever possible. There is much emphasis on Honesty in AA, but many people live the lie of believing in a god/higher power because they desperately want sobriety. They hold hands and say prayers because they feel guilty not doing so. I know this from my personal experience, and from the many AA’s who have shared their feelings and experiences with me. I am extremely grateful to Larry, Roger, and the many AA’s that would not allow this issue to be kept in the dark. Everyone who has shined the light on this truth has much to be proud of.

  16. Sean says:

    Congratulations! A well-deserved victory.

  17. Jack B. says:

    Outstanding!! The dogmatists get chopped down and shown the door. Bravo to all involved.
    Now it’s on to Vancouver and another win there.

    Jack B.

  18. Bob K. says:


    As a wannabe writer myself, among my greatest possible compliments to another writer is “I wish I had written that.”

    “Maybe it should boot itself out. Of itself.”

    I wish I had written THAT!!!!!

    Inspired by our friend Larry, I’d now also like to be a righter.

  19. Alyssa S. says:

    It was fun watching Larry in court where i was the only person in the audience 🙂

    Congrats everyone & thx Larry 4 having the courage to orchestrate this huge move!!!!!

    An old timer once said, “Don’t let it get to your head.” But, lets ignore that for a minute. WooooooooooF’n hoooooo

    Love & Respect

  20. Alyssa S. says:

    It was fun watching Larry in court where I was the only person in the audience. 🙂

    Congrats everyone & thx Larry for having the courage to orchestrate this huge move!!!!

    An old timer once said, “Don’t let it get to your head.” But, lets ignore that for a minute. WooooooooooF’n hoooooo

    Love & Respect

  21. Mikey J says:

    This is such wonderful news. I’ll be sharing this information with my home group. Thanks for everyone’s hard work.

  22. Larry K says:

    Your welcome!

    It’s the least I could do… you saved my life. I’m glad I could help keep the doors open for the still suffering alcoholic.

    More later.

  23. Jennifer C says:

    Awesome fortitude! Thank you for continuing to support what is right and fight for it! Awesome job guys!

  24. Mike B says:

    Hi Kaz:

    I want to make a few comments on your remarks to this incredibly good AA Agnostica story on human rights within AA.

    Personally I am all for rewriting the big book or else getting rid of it completely. It was written almost 80 years ago by authors who were barely 5 years sober and literally flying by the seat of their pants. The book has received no significant updates since; save for changing the personal stories.

    The text is far from sacred and is full of creed, dogma and right wing Christian fundamentalism. It is outdated and irrelevant to many alcoholics in our secular, multicultural, pluralistic society of the new millennium.

    You are absolutely right the book is full of nonsense and I question just how well the nonsense has worked and for how long. Every statistic in recent years provided by GSO/Grapevine state that AA membership has been stagnant (no growth) for the past 30 years and the lowest recovery rates (less than 5%) in AA history.

    Change never stops. If we don’t make the necessary changes as individuals and as a society, we die just like the dinosaurs!

    I would like to close my remarks by thanking both Larry and Roger for a job well done. Your courage and determination I find personally inspiring, motivating and encouraging.

    Toronto is just the tip of the iceberg in rectifying this problem in AA. Perhaps Vancouver should be the next target in Canada and I’m sure there are many others in the USA as well.

    Now that we have AAWS/GSO onside lets carry the battle elsewhere in order to keep AA relevant, attractive, alive and well now and for future generations of alcoholics.

    Mike B.
    Oliver, BC, Canada

    • Tom D. says:

      Hi Mike
      I share many of your thoughts regarding the BB. I look at it today as a well worn, historical description (not prescription) of the early days of the fellowship.
      One point however needs to be clarified; the notion of the mythical 5% recovery rate. This perception has attained almost ubiquitous acceptance in AA and it is false. It stemmed from an inability to correctly interpret some statistical data of our triennial surveys. I won’t go into a lengthy explanation here. I would urge you and interested others to google “AA recovery rates myths and misinterpretation” for an easily understandable, scholarly explanation.
      Tom D.
      Flushing, MI

  25. Joe C says:

    Intergroup reps were demanding information for months about what was going on with the Human Rights complaint but Intergroup waited for the announcement… A coincidence, maybe, good timing on their part, I don’t know but it was January – not December – that the announcement that was demanded, finally came. All the demanding Intergroup reps had rotated out (in December).

    January was a crop of naive Intergroup reps at their first meeting who didn’t know there would be an announcement, didn’t know there was a Human Rights complaint. It was just the room of “deers in the headlights” that Barb H, spokesperson for the ad-hoc Human Rights committee spokesperson, could have asked for. No one there knew she was the Intergroup chair that conducted the de-listing vote. No one was there to say, “Hey Barb, the finance chair said the $40,000 of legal fees was unforeseen and unforeseeable but didn’t someone read the part of the Human Rights Code that said it was a (legal) violation for any group to discriminate against it’s minorities and atheists and agnostics enjoy protection of their rights under the Code? You must have ‘foreseen’ this because you knew it was against the law… You just thought you could get away with it and you conducted the illegal and very un-AA vote, anyway.”

    But no one knew anything was going or what it was about. Intergroup’s legal defense about belief in God being a requirement for membership was never shared with the Intergroup body. They never asked permission, never reported it to the members.

    And as has been reported they appeared remorseless. The announcement reminded me of alcoholics, rationalizing, manipulating, justifying, spinning questionable versions of “the truth.” It is a stark warning to me that this sickness isn’t limited to AA member “Before picture” narrative. It’s uncomfortable to see this behavior coming out in sober people. If the Steps are so sacred, how about be an example of them? Where’s the personal inventory, where’s the humility, where’s the admitting we were wrong?

    Intergroup was forced into unconditional surrender in mediation and they came to Intergroup and declared victory.

    But for the grace of mindfulness of my side of the street go I. I don’t think that kind of deception and manipulation doesn’t happen all at once; it is a gradual falling from grace. I’m not above it. It could happen to me.

    The most important out for the Intergroup ad-hoc committee was to be able to claim that they did nothing wrong. I understand that from a strictly legal posturing point of view. From a living in recovery point of view, “How do you sleep at night?”

    I hope the next generation of Intergroup can take inventory, understand what could have been done better, put a policy and plan in place that replaces conditions on groups with a human rights policy and procedures to hear and deal with problems as they come up in the future. That’s my hope.

    • Stephanie S. says:

      They don’t think they did anything wrong. They think the law is wrong. They think this is unfair *to them*. There are plenty of current examples of classes of people who wield too much power and believe themselves oppressed when they have to yield some of it. It’s a societal illness. It’s structural. Alcoholism doesn’t cause it and recovery doesn’t cure it.

  26. Ted J. says:

    I have faith in a higher power. AA is all inclusive and everyone has the right to interpret the steps in their own way.

  27. Jennifer B says:

    Kudos Larry. You are an inspiration to all who seek equality. Thank you for sticking it out. All AAAA’s will remember your grand efforts.

  28. Andrew L. says:

    An absolutely incredible development. A momentous one.

    In other North American intergroup news: WAIA – our local intergroup in the Washington, DC area – very quickly added our newest secular meeting, Beyond Belief, and even added a brand new searchable meeting-type tag for “Atheist/Agnostic” on their website.

    Some people seem to understand the Traditions – specifically the natures of authority and membership in Alcoholics Anonymous – and other people require significant convincing.

    People like us built this fellowship just as well as the supernaturally fanatical did. We’ve always been here and we will always remain, offering the light of hope to hopeless drunks. No magic required.

    • Joe C says:

      Great news.

      A member who got sobriety date pre-dates the death of Bill W in 1971. He is a regular at Kingston’s Beyond Belief meeting and Odessa Ontario’s Broader Path group says that this is the healthiest that AA seems to be for the last 25 years. And I think, that’s a good way to look at it. There are lots of secular meetings. There is lots of back-to-basics meetings. There is AA in every “language” of the heart. Congrats. 202 – Washington DC.

      • life-j says:

        Joe, are the back to basics meetings listed as regular AA meetings? I guess we should try to be open-minded even about them, but I believe there are many places where they are excluded for the same reason Toronto Intergroup caved in – there is an insistence on god and the steps way out of line with what is healthy.

        • Bill D says:

          Hi life. Most directories do list Back to Basics and Primary Purpose groups. There is no reciprocity on the part of the fundamentalist movement though. They do not reference any groups or meetings outside their sphere. (I wonder if that’s the correct way to phrase that — they do believe the earth is flat don’t they?) They register their groups at GSO for inclusion in the directories AAWS prints for use within the Fellowship.

      • John H says:

        If you are interested in Back to Basics and how pernicious they are an article of mine in these pages from May 2015 might be interesting:

        Back to Basics and other threats to AA

        On every chair at the meeting (in ultra liberal, ultra educated/wealthy Bethesda, MD no less) was a copy of Wally P’s book (not approved AA literature last time I checked) and the meeting has been in the directory for years. Personally I don’t see any reason why they should not be listed. Sort of like the ACLU position on the Nazis. If they can do it to them they can do it to us.

    • John H says:

      That was news to me Andrew… Best of luck with that Wednesday meeting… As you probably know we have never had a problem with WAIA and our original “We Agnostics” has been continuously listed since early 1989. While a few self-appointed “investigators” have come around over the years we have never had a real issue. I attribute some of this to the fact that the only reading of any kind at the Sunday meeting has been the preamble and that we have never tried to alter or even much discuss the steps (pro or con) in the years we have been around. I’m of the firm belief that the minimalist approach (along with regular contributions which they always gladly accept) is always best when dealing with “official” AA organs. Who knows, I may even go to a nighttime meeting some day…

      • Andrew L. says:

        We would love to have you, John; we had 13 people last night! Let me know when a good Wednesday would be and you can lead for us.

        Yes, both WAIA and the Dupont Circle Club have been totally helpful and accommodating at every step. We are very lucky to live among a wider AA community that isn’t characterized by organized hostility to us.

    • Ralph B. says:

      Many Paths to Spirituality meeting was started August 2016 in Langley
      BC. We had unanimous support from our District 43 committee, listed in local newsletter and directory. Area 79 and GSO listed our agnostic meeting no questions asked. Were we fortunate or had they learned from Toronto’s experience? Whatever, it has been a positive event for our local AA.

  29. Iain Harkins says:


  30. Simon P says:

    Well done! As a longtime member of Narcotics Anonymous in London, UK, the only real problem we have here with rabid dogmatists is when they arrive from the US as guest speakers at our Conventions. Beyond that our fellowship continues to flourish as a diverse, pluralistic, tolerant and largely heathen fellowship – in fact, it’s a source of some humour around London NA that the only place you’ll really hear God repeatedly mentioned is at the ‘Atheists & Agnostics’ meeting! Keep up the good work. Love the Beyond Belief meditation book.

    • life-j says:

      Simon, my experience visiting Denmark is somewhat similar to yours, there is a lot less god talk, but they still read all the regular AA reading stuff, how it works, close with the serenity prayer, etc.

      Seems they are somewhat more inclined to reading living sober than the big book, as compared to the US, though.

      Haven’t seen any non-believer meetings there yet, which I guess is because the regular meetings, all things considered, aren’t rabidly godly.

  31. life-j says:

    Thank you Larry.

    And thank you Roger, too.

    It is cause for concern though that GTAI made as few concessions as possible, and it would seem that having a registration form which requires adoption, acknowledgment or whatever of the 12 steps is quite problematic, as it does not say anything about the intent of the steps or a possibly modified steps or anything from the sound of it. It would probably be good to push this as far as needed, and do it as openly and forcefully as doesn’t seem obnoxious or vindictive, just to establish a precedent in a solid manner.

    I’m glad GSO took a firm stand on this. Now we will have to see if elements of GSC, our most conservative body, will work on reversing this. Don’t be surprised if it happens. I would say there is no time to waste solidifying our position wherever necessary. We have a lot to learn from the Tea Party.

    • Stephanie S. says:

      Yes. Based on what I’ve read here I expect that reactionaries in the GTI will come snooping around again and try to delist groups that employ any variation on the steps. I suspect that there’s a place to push through between the concepts of adoption and interpretation (all the adaptations of the steps are forms of interpretation, yes?) but it’s all distasteful to contemplate.

      One way or the other, the reactionaries will organize and hit back. Fundamentalists always do.

  32. Tom D. says:

    With tongue firmly ensconced in cheek … amen.

  33. Dan L. says:

    Thank you, Larry.

  34. kaz says:

    Every AA group can behave as it likes, but I am still opposed to rewriting any part of our sacred text. Once you do that, where does it stop?

    I think AA dogma is nonsense, but it’s our nonsense and seems to have worked for some time.

    • Carlos D. says:

      Sacred????? Who gives it it’s sanctity…

    • Aitchc says:

      ‘Sacred’ text. ‘AA dogma is nonsense, but it’s our nonsense …’!!! FOR ME Kaz, there’s nothing ‘sacred’ about any AA text. As someone once said, and I believe it to be so, ‘there is a fundamental flaw in anything that places itself above questioning’. And nonsense is nonsense and nonsense should always be unacceptable and challenged by reason. ‘Seems to have worked for sometime’ …. nonsense has worked for sometime? For this atheist in AA, I’m so grateful for the fellowship I get within AA but I really don’t go with the herd instinct and the collective ‘we’. We’re all different, thankfully.

    • life-j says:

      Kaz, either it has worked for some time or it hasn’t. The original, small AA worked quite well for Type A personality white males of high education and high social achievement.

      I don’t think it works all that well for the current pool of alcoholics as a whole.

      What works is one alcoholic talking with another, all the rest, well, not all, but most of it in the shape AA has given it is nonsense.

      The only reason I want to hold on to AA is that there are 2 million people, adequately spread all over the continent dedicated to helping each other, and the newcomers, although with the creeping dogmatization there are too many who are only willing to help on their own terms, and who are only too willing to adopt the attitude of “well, if you aren’t ready to accept the help offered, I guess you will have to go out and do some more drinking”. This is the essence of Christian love, I guess.

      I had major cancer surgery a couple of years ago. If I had been looking at a 5-10 % success rate I don’t know if it would have been worth it.

    • Thomas M. says:

      The text is NOT sacred, period.

    • Andrew L. says:

      Bill Wilson found the Big Book’s manuscript etched in a strange language on golden plates which he found when he was a boy of 14 living in Elmira, NY in 1830.

      No, wrong story. Ah, I remember now. When Bill Wilson was around forty years old, while on a retreat to the Cave of Hira in the mountains of Hejaz, he began receiving divine revelations from the angel Gabriel for 23 years, which were written down after his death as the Big Book.

      Oh! Right! Actually, what happened was that he was leading the Israelites out of Egypt and was handed the Big Book – written on stone tablets – by God Himself on top of Mount Sinai.

      Jokes, jokes. There’s nothing sacred about it. It’s a self-help book.

      In truth the Big Book was written by an alcoholic with three years sober, without the benefit of any old timers, whose sponsor required frequent trips to the drunk tank. At that, the book was written 80 years ago. To say that it couldn’t possibly be improved upon is a bit… how do I say this diplomatically… emotional.

    • Dan L says:

      The olde “slippery slope” argument fallacy. Once you start to try to change for the better where does it stop?
      Where does it stop indeed! It sounds dangerous. Our success rates are so low the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude is not really holding up very well. The reputedly much higher recovery rates of earlier days are not documented and are based upon hearsay passed on by the people who were most successful and and survived longest in AA. Where your opening shot is, “Rarely have we seen a person fail…” a lame “blame the victim” piece of nonsense if I ever saw one you can only go downhill. Credibility is a commodity like brand name and ours is getting pretty shaky. Claiming “Sacred” texts are our inspiration is way too cultish for me. The only thing I dislike more than being accused of joining a zombie cult is those fellow members who ARE part of a zombie cult.

    • Lisa M. says:

      Kaz, Im not thinking that AA’s programs have actually ‘worked’ in terms of the numbers of people who have succeeded in their long term sobriety. Grateful to those who have ‘bitten their tongues’ in pursuit of their goals to be sober. Sad to think how many left the rooms because of the requirement to believe in a HP. Or simply stayed and endured the dogmatic rhetoric that didn’t quite fit right. Works for some. Doesn’t work for others.

      Sacred text? Not mine.

    • Victoria says:

      Well, sorry, kaz – I’m with the other respondents on this hyping of the BB and associated dogma that’s built up around it. It is profoundly, deeply, disturbingly unsettling to most newcomers in the 21st century. I say this as a ‘recurrent returnee’ (i.e. I relapse often) to the rooms, over 5+ years, here in Australia – a predominantly secular society, demographically speaking. And I’m 61 y.o., well educated, so have the nose to sniff out cultish behaviours in AA groups where they exist. And they do, here, just as surely as elsewhere.

      Frankly, I cringe every time I see a few – and I mean, only a very few (for they only occasionally pop up) – newcomers, particularly younger Gen X, Y and Z people, tentatively come to a few meetings straight from rehab or wherever. They’re pounced on by no-doubt well meaning old timers, or even people with barely a year or more sobriety. Before you know it, I’ve noticed the even fewer who remain over a period of weeks or maybe a few months, start to parrot the lingo.

      Worse, some have been ‘encouraged’ (‘lovingly bullied’) to attend intensive BB / Steps workshops along the Back to Basics lines. The latest version of that seemingly proliferating around various rooms in this city and State calls it itself ‘Arch To Freedom’…..

      Talk about shadowy, and yes, indoctrinating.

      It’s little wonder that AA’s membership numbers have stayed static for 25 years.

    • Brent P. says:

      It’s that “sacred text” statement that demonstrates how far AA strayed from it’s original purpose. The epiphany that Bill experienced when sharing with Dr. Bob was that he, Bill, definitely wasn’t going to drink that night. When he later shared that insight with Dr. Bob, Dr. Bob got it. It struck him as powerfully as Bill; one alcoholic helping another meant at least one of the two was going to stay sober based on being of humble service to another suffering alcoholic. That was the cornerstone of AA. The religious component was borrowed from the Oxford Group which hosted the very first meetings of AA. There is nothing sacred in the Big Book and in no place does it suggest that’s the case. It’s members of AA who, like Intergroup here, extrapolated that faith in God was what got drunks sober. It is clearly stated in the BB; all of what is written there is suggested and that AA was spiritual kindergarten. If ever proof was required of AA mutating, and not in a Darwinian “adaptation of the species” kind of way, it’s encapsulated in those two words “sacred text”.
      It is also reprehensible to suggest it works just fine. It worked just fine for you. The vast majority of alcoholics and addicts will die from their unnatural relationship to mood and mind altering substances and they will for certain take loved ones with them. AA has helped sober up a handful of alcoholics who, I would venture to guess, were going to sober up regardless. The ratio of real, chronic alcoholics, who got sober in AA is so small a number when put next to all those still practising, it’s hardly worth mentioning. AA is a club house for folks who want to stop drinking. They get moral support at AA and a social life. But AA addresses but 1 of a complex of disorders that will cause the alcoholic to drink again, live miserably, or take his or her own life. And that’s because there’s no allowance for what made you drink so self destructively. There are a lot of heavy drinkers in AA. Not a lot of those who experience final 10-15 years of absolute hell. If you’re one of them, you know of what I speak.

  35. Aitchc says:

    Well done to Larry for taking on GTAI and thanks to you Roger for creating a vehicle for non-believers in AA to connect and be heard. But for me, the Steps are ‘suggested’ only and the AA ‘programme’ is primarily one of abstinence from alcohol. I find any ‘requirement’ placed upon me by any AA structure, or individual including a sponsor, to be unacceptable to me, whether as originally written or re-written to accommodate. AA rings very much like how Christianity started and the many rules, regulations, and rituals that are a fundamental part of the necessity of believing and being whatever type of Christian a person may be today. History appears to tell us that there were no required Steps before the Big Book was published. I’m an atheist and my presenting problem was drunkenness and my all too often inability to control my drinking. I live with the solution today and that ‘sobriety solution’ led me to address my underlying problems in my own way. To each their own I say but as each person so chooses. Isn’t the only requirement for membership still ‘a desire to stop drinking’? If I can keep breathin’ in and out and standing upright, I’m hoping to get to Toronto for the 3rd International Convention in 2018 (from Scotland); and maybe tolerance will have broken out by then, even for my views.

  36. Brent P. says:

    While I’ve often questioned why the seeming desperate need to remain affiliated with AA, it appears the Atheist/Agnostic issue really was with Toronto Intergroup rather than AA itself. A great deal of credit is owed to Larry, Roger and all whose faith in the “rightness” of the Atheist/Agnostic cause in AA eventually overcame.

    Perhaps Greater Toronto’s AA Intergroup was made insecure with the appearance of two more A’s?

    In the end however, the issue wasn’t about what people put their faith in, rather it was about power. Intergroup asserted its imagined authority to deny frequently desperate alcoholics, basic human rights. And no amount of fuzzy logic was going to obscure that malfeasance.

    It’s quite likely there’s an epidemic of resentment within Toronto Intergroup for the public humiliation it needn’t have suffered. For had the representatives sincerely sought direction and guidance from their God, it’s certain each would have been reminded of the pledge they’d repeatedly taken to… “always want the hand of AA to be there”.

    There’s a certain irony to this concession occurring at a time when we’ve got daily displays of hatred and suspicion of others in the Theatre of the Absurd now playing to the world from Washington D.C.

  37. Carlos D. says:

    Greetings from Portugal! Great news for all the non-believers around the world who found recovery with a non-theistic, no-divinity, interpretation of the world, the steps and of being SOBER in AA. My gratitude goes for those that have endured this fight, who says “we have to stop fighting”…THANK YOU!

  38. Pat N. says:

    Many thanks, Larry, Roger, and allies in the Gorgeous North. Your persistence has been awe-inspiring. And plaudits to the Ontarian civil rights board for doing the right thing. I hope I will show as much intelligence and courage in whatever conflicts lie ahead.

    T. Roosevelt said “Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords.”

    Once again, I just wish Canada would welcome US geezers as immigrants.

  39. Skip D. says:

    Thanks to Larry, Roger and all who helped make this happen.

  40. Sasha Lee says:

    Thanks to Larry in particular, and to all who labored on this effort. My life is incomparably better because of your selfless dedication to the cause of individual liberty within the AA fellowship.

  41. Bob K. says:

    Toronto Intergroup remains a disappointment. Within an organization espousing self-examination, confession of wrongs, amends, and deference to “higher authorities,” the shamed intergroup continues to profess “We were right, but…”

    The settlement proves their wrongdoing. The GSO delisting resolution proves their wrongdoing. The willingness to re-enfranchise the disenfranchised groups proves their wrongdoing.

    Were GTAI to follow the principles of AA, principles they supposedly climbed upon white chargers to defend, they would be issuing formal apologies to each of the delisted, disenfranchised AA groups. Instead, we will move forward into what history will record as “the resentment years.”

    A statement of apology is the least of what they could do. Larry K. was NOT the only wronged party.

    Instead they cling to their own righteousness like the pathetic late-stage drunk clinging to his bottle of hooch.

    Very disappointing.

    During the second part of the 2011-2012 witch hunt, GTAI enacted new procedures which they are stubbornly keeping in place. By exacting the satisfaction of forcing the delisted groups to reapply on a form asking for acceptance of the 12 steps, I think the GTAI has left itself open to further human rights actions.

    Should a group make known its desire to register, and be listed, WITHOUT accepting AA’s 12 steps, we are back to the core of the original complaint, if that request is denied.

  42. Tom L. says:

    We have followed the GTA/secular AA tribulations. We in the Greater Seattle Area AA community have not had the problems Toronto encountered with our intergroup. However, in this new US political environment nothing is beyond happening, including challenges to non-Christian, secular AA.

    Congratulations in your success; thank you for chronicling this 5 year challenge to freedom from religion in AA. It sets a precedent for all of us.

  43. Hilary J. says:

    Much-needed good news! Let’s hope it won’t require legal action for Vancouver intergroup to follow suit. They just published new guidelines for inclusion in the directory. One is that the group must be a “spiritual entity”, whatever that means. Makes me think of poltergeists!

    • Larry K says:

      lol…i’m guessing that’s a can of worms.

    • Stephanie S. says:

      Ah, the “too clever by half” approach to policymaking. When you get that stuff in front of adjudicators it never holds up, but until they lose the people who make it are usually unduly proud of themselves. Are they still pretending that an enabling policy existed back when they delisted the groups? I shouldn’t have been surprised that they lied through their teeth at the time, but I was.

      Anyhow. Greater Vancouver Intergroup, you’re next. I just wish Denis were alive to see this.

  44. Sarah H says:

    Hi there – I’m really happy to read this.

    I’ve never been clear, though, on the following:

    Can Agnostic / Atheist AA groups change, in writing, the 12 steps and then post these ‘altered/amended’ steps on their web-page?

    I had thought that this alteration (and publication) of the original steps was the sticking point. (I understand that there are also AA police that believe everyone should believe in God).

    Many thanks,
    Sarah H.

    • Dan L. says:

      I don’t know if there’s an “official” answer to this, but I’ve read up on it and discussed it with others and as I see it, the traditions allow it, providing the group has no affiliations.

      AA’s 12 steps are a suggested programme. Groups can suggest alternative steps, though they should be clear that they’re not ‘AA’s steps’.

    • Bill D says:

      The only restriction I know of is that any changes to the wording of the first 164 pages of big book for publication in subsequent editions should have near unanimous ( 2/3 ) world wide support of all listed groups at GSO. There are those ignorant of this one exceptional restriction and believe it applies it to all rewrites even those not intended for publication.

      • Mike B says:

        Hi Bill:

        I am not a lawyer or any legal authority but I believe the no changes to the big book’s 1st 164 pages has more to do with protecting publication copyrights of AA’s literature than stopping any group from having secular 12 steps printed (as per group conscience) and posted on the walls of their meeting rooms.

        In my humble opinion taking god out of the wording of the steps doesn’t change the basic principles of the steps.

        Just my take on the topic.

        Mike B.
        Oliver, BC, Canada

        • Bill D says:

          You are absolutely correct Mike and Thanks for the reply. My reply to Sarah was clarification regarding any references to a prohibition known. The exception I referenced about textual changes within the first 164 pages referred only regarding following editions to the Big Book to be published by AAWS. Tradition 4 and our own conscience protects our right to any interpretation, if any at all, to anything published in our literature. Well to remember that AA is a fellowship not a program of recovery. *Says so right in the foreword and Preamble* =))

      • Victoria says:

        Firstly, thanks Larry and Roger et al for keeping us up to speed with this (possibly) historic development.

        As an aside, re Mike’s and Bill’s points about the copyright on the Big Book (specifically, first 164 pages): it piqued my interest – having worked on a PhD on publishing etc about 15 years ago.

        So, for the history boffins who know more about Big Book / AAWS etc history, I submit this rather useful link from Cornell U about the various copyright expiration periods; see the range of possibilities under the the 2nd main heading Works Registered or First Published in the U.S.

        Eventually, copyright WILL expire, and the BB will enter the Public Domain.

      • John R says:

        Actually, the copyrights on the first 164 pages have run out. It was an oversight on the part of GSO. The copyright needed to be re-affirmed and was not. This is why you can get a digital copy of the first 164 pages online, though not the stories from the 2nd through 4th editions (which maintain current copyright protections). The GSC has consistently voted, however, not to change (most of) the original edition since changes were made to the first and second editions primarily for grammatical and clarification purposes.

      • Mike B says:

        Thanks to Bill, Victoria and John for your additional clarification on the 1st 164 pages.


    • Sarah H says:

      Ah! Thanks, Dan and Bill. I remember when this all started, one reason given for not allowing agnostics/atheists on the AA Website was that a couple of groups (or just one?) had a link to the 12 steps amended to take out ‘god’. As time went on, it was difficult to understand why the exclusion from the AA listings continued. Thanks again, Sarah.

  45. Kathleen C. says:

    This is very inspirational news Roger, thank you for your in-depth analysis as I am very new to Agnostic AA, having struggled to get sober for the last 8 years with “religious” AA way up here in Collingwood (otherwise known as The Bible Belt). Heartfelt thanks to ALL involved in this protracted and exhausting battle!

  46. Bill D says:

    Of course the General Service Board was compelled by Trad 10 to delete its data base for GTAI.

    This cannot be the end of the matter. A larger effort looms if AA is to survive as a vital force for recovery from alcoholism. We owe this fellowship our involvement in the service structure to assure there are no barriers to membership for those that desire sobriety. Involvement in your home groups, in your districts, intergroups and areas. Stay on the firing line, let your voice be heard. Even the Believers will thank us… it’s for their good too. Happy trails!

  47. Paul E. says:

    Great! That should make it easier for the rest of us too.

    Thank you!!!

  48. John F. says:

    A victory for SOBRIETY!

  49. Suzanne G. says:

    Congratulations Larry. It was a very brave thing that you did. I met you in Austin Texas and I could see the toll it was taking on you. Shame on GTAI for being so obstinate over the years. Even their statement conceding defeat is weasel-worded. Do we now dare to actively promote secular 12 Steps?

    And thanks to Roger C for your bravery also in being the public mouthpiece for us. You are an institution now, but starting AA Agnostica took some courage.

    I hope I can take some courage from what you have both done and challenge the antiquated attitudes in AA here in the UK.

    • Larry K says:

      Thank you Suzanne, for keeping me company in the lobby as you adjusted to the time shift and I was so wound up with the adventure of a life time. Long drive there and back!

  50. Dave J says:

    Thanks Larry.

  51. Jon S says:

    Many thanks Larry and everyone involved in AA Agnostica and AA Beyond Belief.

  52. Ron H. says:

    Great news! I have this idea that the district, intergroup, etc., is not in charge of the groups but they forget that. It says each group is autonomous except where it affects other groups or AA as a whole.

    • Boyd P. says:

      . . .”except where it affects other groups”. Pretty hazy direction. Always looking for useful interpretations of those words.

  53. John H says:

    That’s wonderful news Larry.

    Your amazing persistence and commitment certainly paid off. I hope to see you again at your regional meeting in September (will need a holiday in a free Country by then) to continue the debate about this steps business (I still think, except for step one, that for this militant atheist they are totally irrelevant and therefore don’t need revision) but the underlying principle of free people speaking freely is what you defended here.
    GSO was also wise to back you up indirectly with their own delisting threat but I still think NY speaks out of both sides of its collective mouth in a very clever way. Anyway, the net result was great and your achievement here is nothing short of incredible.

    Warmest regards to you from DC where a very different (though strangely related in some ways) non-AA struggle is underway.


    PS Your presentation of the issue in Austin was just outstanding. I remain very impressed despite some reservations I expressed to you at the time.

  54. J K says:

    Many congrats! Great news. 🙂

  55. Dan C. says:

    To our Canadian friends and most specially to Larry, thank you for taking this on and making a profound statement for all of AA.

    Dan C, 40+years, Cumberland, Maine.

  56. ChiswickMichael says:

    Hello Roger
    This is truly great news. Frankly I thought that I would never see any progress in my lifetime.
    What really saddens me is the fact that worthy people had to instigate such legal proceedings in order to achieve this recognition.
    Many thanks all round.
    London UK

  57. Gary O says:

    Thank you Larry, a million times, thank you. I have been eagerly awaiting this news. As one who got sober in AA in Toronto, I was shocked and appalled at the GTAI’s actions. When I joined AA in Toronto in 1972, it was not uncommon (at least in my groups) to hear the following comment made to someone who was waxing religious, “Leave your religion at the door. You can pick it up on the way out.” Thank you for your struggle to return a modicum of that advice to AA. Cheers.

  58. Ian C. says:

    Hallelujah. Over here in the UK, most view Canada as leaders of the fair world. So the whole debacle was just so… odd – like a film’s director and crew had all arrived on the wrong set.

    Reputation restored.

    Ian C

  59. Nigel S. says:

    Please correct me if I have anything wrong in this comment.

    I was not at the GTAI meeting but I read their report of the tribunal. Actually, in the GTAI’s summary of the case, I believe that they state specifically that their ‘rules’ have not changed and rather than have groups “acknowledge or adopt the 12 Steps, 12 Traditions and 12 Concepts of AA….” as set out in the ruling, that groups should adopt the 12 steps etc.

    That is quite a different thing and completely the opposite of the ruling.

    My thoughts go to Step 10: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it”.

    I also think that AA members should be horrified that some part of their 7th donations have been so wilfully wasted by GTAI in pursuing this case. I understand that they have not divulged their legal costs in this case and should be made to do so promptly by their members.

    Ironically, the Toronto We Agnostics meeting on Tuesday night has been re-listed but at the wrong time.

    Now that is Trumpian obfuscation at its best!

    • Bob K. says:

      At the November meeting, it was acknowledged that to that point, Intergroup’s pay-outs for legal expenses related to this matter tallied to $28,000.

      I expect the final total to be around 40K.

      • Murray J. says:

        Last night’s Intergroup financial report indicated legal costs just north of $36000 for January through December 2016. Perhaps not all of that was for the Human Rights case but I’m sure the vast majority went for their defense. $7500 is budgeted for 2017 for legal costs. Of note to me is the plummeting prudent reserve. It was $285000. It is now down to the $236000 range.

    • Larry K says:

      I’ll address that after Monday.

    • Chris C. says:

      This last part is false. It is not helpful to post fake news about this. The Toronto We Agnostics meeting has not yet been re-listed. The GTAI website is

      • Larry K says:

        You are correct… the system didn’t take my information when I posted it. That said, I am sure it will be posted. Or not… that’s a different issue.

  60. Mel D. says:

    Does this mean that there would be no repercussions if a group posted an agnostic version of the steps at their meeting or if they handed out a flier listing the agnostic 12 steps? It doesn’t look like that was one of the concessions.

    • Roger says:

      That question was posed at GTA Intergroup meeting on January 31. The answer was that what a group does is not the business of Intergroup. “There is no policing in AA” was also part of the response to that question.

  61. Dan V says:

    Thank you Larry and Roger for all you have done; today the Sun shines a little brighter.

  62. Thomas B. says:

    Yes, indeed — THANK YOU, LARRY !~!~!

    Without your courage to initiate this human rights action, GTAI may have been able to continue to discriminate against those of us who believe differently from the predominant Christian ideology imbued within the Big Book, largely due to the influence during the 1930s of the pietistic, evangelical Oxford Group.

    And THANK YOU, ROGER !~!~!

    Your courage to launch AA Agnostica, reporting on the situation with GTAI, as well as offering a major outlet of news and articles for the secular community in AA recovery, has been essential for sustaining our growth over the past five or so years.

    Though this is a significant victory for our human rights, I fear that during the Trumpian dark days within which we live , we’ll collectively be challenged to continue advocating for our right to be secular within AA.

    The reality is that a majority of AA members in North America are Christian. Further, it’s evident from AA’s history that since 1976 or so, a substantial majority of the delegates at the AA General Service Conference certainly espouse Christian-only beliefs.

    I’m reminded of a popular song from my long-gone youth, “We’ve Only Just Begun . . . ;)”

  63. T. says:

    I would like to see a category in the groups listing database for atheist/agnostic groups, just like one can search for open vs. closed meetings, discussion vs. speaker, wheelchair accessible, smoking vs. non-smoking, LGBTQ, men’s or women’s, non-English, etc., etc., etc.

    • Roger says:

      Good point, T. Those categories are used in AA meeting lists in New York City, Chicago and Austin, Texas.

      • Dave J says:

        We were also able to get the atheist/agnostic category added to our new Area 72 Meeting List for Western Washington state.

  64. Boyd P. says:

    The dark clouds have passed, for now. When they return, as we know they will, this positive precedent will serve us well, IF we can share it without acrimony. Have the “losers” grown in the process? Has unity been served?

    And thank you Larry, for your perseverance. I trust your sobriety has found new depth.

  65. Neil F says:

    Thanks for sharing this good news Roger and thanks for all you have accomplished in support of atheists, agnostics and free thinkers in AA over the past five years. AA Agnostica has been, and continues to be, a beacon of hope for us. It’s where I first found out that I was not alone; that there were others who were getting sober and living good sober lives without a belief in a god.

    Thanks also to Larry for his courage and perseverance to see this through. You have my respect and gratitude. Well done.

  66. Risti says:

    Thank you Larry and all involved. Our group in the states had problems at the district level when we first started. Along with other actions, one person went to the director of the institution to try and convince him not to allow us to hold meetings there. With over two decades of sobriety I really struggled with AA itself. Can’t even imagine the newcomer struggling to stay sober being faced with the dogma thats present in meetings today. I have always been extremely active in AA and held many different service positions and made a point to go to as many meetings a week and in a four county surrounding area. The notion that belief is required and the lecturing that takes place in meetings actually seems to have gotten much worse since I came in. Thanks again for going before us and all of your hard work and dedication!!!

  67. Tommy H says:

    Great news. Thanks to all who worked on it.

  68. Ed S. says:

    Great job!

  69. Sherril W. says:

    It’s a miracle! Sherril W.

  70. Richard J. says:

    Thank you very much Larry. I’m sure I’ll meet you someday to thank you in person. You have made it better for all of us and especially for new comers.

    Richard J

  71. Lisa M. says:

    Yeah for my friends to the north. May Toronto be a beacon of light for those (me in particular) that believe there is hope, support and life beyond the g-o-d-h-I-g-h-e-r-p-o-w-e-r dogma collar that strains so many of us from our better good. Bravo Toronto!

  72. Dale K. says:

    Great news! Thanks, Larry, for all you had to deal with.

  73. Megan R. says:

    This is great news! Thank you, Larry, for your persistence!

  74. Murray J. says:

    I was “in the trenches” at Intergroup as a rep through the purge of the agnostic groups. I knew then that it was wrong. It took Larry’s courage and perseverance to compel Intergroup to do the right thing.

    Thank you Larry. And thank you Roger.

    GSR Beyond Belief Suburban West and Treasurer for SOAAR 2017

  75. Kevin D. says:

    Thank you Larry.

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