A Motion to Relist Secular AA Groups

Mike B., a member of the Fellowship Group in Oliver, British Columbia was inspired by the interim decision of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, to craft a motion that he will present to his District on March 20, 2016. If approved by the District, the motion will next be presented as an emergency measure to Area 79 British Columbia/Yukon Area Assembly of Alcoholics Anonymous. If passed by the Area Assembly, the Delegate for Area 79 will take the motion to the upcoming General Service Conference to be held in New York from April 17 to April 23, 2016.

The motion calls for all levels of AA service (Districts, Areas, GSO, General Service Conference, AAWS Inc., and Board of Trustees) to immediately rectify the discriminatory practices within our fellowship that presently exist against secular AA members and groups.

This is good timing for an action like this as it gives GSO an opportunity to encourage diversity and inclusiveness within the fellowship. Similar motions can be brought forth to any Area Assembly that is meeting prior to the General Service Conference in April.

Good luck Mike. We will be following this story with interest.

What follows is the motion as written by Mike B. 

Motion of AA Business:

A: Objective:

To reverse the delisting and disenfranchisement 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:

“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!

E. Motion:

Whereas:

• 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:

1. 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?

2. 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!

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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:

Mike B.
The Fellowship Group
Oliver, BC

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  1. SJ April 13, 2016 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Hi all,

    I’m a little late to this party but I think this is an interesting topic and since I have a slightly different take on this, I figured I’d post.  Just to short-circuit questions, my home group is a secular group in Portland, OR (Hi Thomas, you can probably figure out who this is), and I’m fully in support of secular groups in AA. That being said, I would probably oppose this motion if it came up in my district. The reason I would oppose it is that the autonomy that gives secular groups the freedom to have our own kinds of meetings is the same autonomy that allows intergroups to exclude secular groups from their lists.  Intergroups have the right to act as they please, even if it’s inconsistent with our Traditions (and, perhaps, Canadian law).  And so I would oppose a motion for any other AA entity (District, Area, GSO) to try to dictate what intergroups should or shouldn’t do.  This is akin to a support of free speech:  I don’t have to agree with what someone is  saying to support their right to say it.

    In spite of this, there are lots of things that groups, districts and areas can do to help address the situation.  Ultimately intergroups are responsible to groups, who have a voice through their contributions and their votes.  Groups that understand how the intergroups are flouting the Traditions can withhold their money.  And while the secular groups can’t vote at intergroup, sympathetic groups can bring motions to the intergroup to re-list secular groups.  Additionally, Districts and Area can hold 3rd tradition workshops that could educate members on what our 3rd tradition means and why groups have these freedoms.  To me, this would be the great silver lining of this issue, it could lead to the education of the fellowship at large about our Traditions and about group autonomy.

    I know you guys have been going through this for a long time and that I’m not up to speed on everything you’ve done.  You may have tried all the things that I’ve mentioned. But I don’t think that interfering with autonomy is the way to go.

    Respectfully,

    SJ

  2. Rich Hildebrand March 14, 2016 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Why not include AA’s pamphlet “Many Paths To Spirituality” in your supporting documents? After all this pamphlet was AA’s way to welcome people with and belief no beliefs into the fold. This will require them to put their money where their mouths are. Neither the conference, Area or any District can tell and Intergroup what to do. All entities in AA are autonomous. But those Intergroups can certainly be told how the pamphlet on spirituality promotes inclusivity for all in Alcoholics Anonymous.

    • Jack Blair March 14, 2016 at 6:06 pm Reply

      Thanks Rich.

      An excellent suggestion. Consider it done.

      Jack.

  3. Ann Mattocks March 13, 2016 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    Someone stated, “AA has always been modeled after Christian ideology.” I believe this is incorrect. The earliest members had atheists/agnostics among them who absolutely insisted on “God as I understand Him”. This is not Christian theology.

  4. Jack Blair March 13, 2016 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    Thank you very much Mike B. Your proposed motion is, I believe, both necessary and vital to AA as a whole. The deist’s within the organization must be stopped from hijacking my beloved AA.

    With three like-minded friends, I (we) have been discussing what is required to launch a B.C. Human Rights complaint against the Vancouver Area Intergroup office modeled on the Ontario action. Our starting point is that religious bigotry – indeed bigotry of ANY stripe – cannot be allowed to exist in AA unchallenged.

    Over the last hour though, we have decided to keep going with the preliminaries but delay the formal launch pending the outcome of Mike B’s motions to the BC/Yukon region. But I will be clear here, we will delay ONLY; we reserve our right to launch at a further date should it become necessary.

    We strongly recommend that aabeyondbelief update this issue as frequently as necessary as any outcomes become available.

    My very best to all and another “well done” to Mike B.

    Jack.

     

    • Roderick Mackin April 16, 2016 at 2:07 am Reply

      Please add my name to your list of advocates.

    • John S March 13, 2016 at 8:16 pm Reply

      Jack,

      I promise you that we will publish any news we receive on this developing situation.

    • Denisk March 13, 2016 at 6:55 pm Reply

      Thanks Jack,

      Several of us share your same reasoning; we are planning a Human Rights Action as well; the sooner the better to deal with this ridiculous situation here in Vancouver with Intergroup.

      Love to speak with you; you can find my phone number on vancouveraaaa.ca My name, Denis K is under the first meeting, my number is to the right.

      Denis K

      • Jack Blair March 13, 2016 at 7:20 pm Reply

        Hi Denis.

        Yes I will contact you. It’s a no-brainer that we should pool resources. I go to the Tues night meeting of Quad A at 12th and Hemlock. Perhaps we will meet, I hope so.

        Cheers,

        Jack.

  5. Rich March 13, 2016 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Donald Turner hit it right on the nailhead….. Well done , finally I actually hear from someone who actually has a grip on reality….. I was a bit worried……Most excellent comment Don…..Hats off to you!

  6. John S March 13, 2016 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Mike, I applaud your effort, and I thank you for doing this. You have inspired me to present a similar motion to our Area Assembly in Missouri that will be held next weekend.

  7. Shirley R. March 13, 2016 at 11:59 am - Reply

    As a member of the newly-formed (Nov 2015) A Broad Highway group in Nelson, BC, I applaud you, Mike and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • Gord A. March 17, 2016 at 10:49 pm Reply

      I will approach our DCM to suggest this motion be discussed and possibly voted on at our District 75 meeting this Sunday in Castlegar.  He has assured me that he will be mentioning our newly-formed agnostic group at the Squamish Pre-Conference Assembly on April 8.

      Gord A.

      A Broad Highway group

      Nelson BC

  8. Victoria March 13, 2016 at 11:48 am - Reply

    I get this, and I support it wholeheartedly — but isn’t this a bit like trying to walk into a church and get them to change their doctrine? AA has always been modeled after Christian ideology. Having meetings that have different literature, different steps, different interpretations is exactly what we need — but can we still call them AA meetings? Would love to hear other thoughts on this.

    • Mike B. March 13, 2016 at 5:23 pm Reply

      Hi Victoria:

      You pose a good question and all of our efforts could again be in vain. Each time we battle the discrimination in AA I believe we always make some progress though it often appears like one step forward and two steps back. I believe there are a some significant differences this time around.

      The general acceptance of secular AA in our fellowship and service structure is becoming better as time passes, Toronto  and Vancouver intergroup committees excepted. I have been doing some phone lobbying here and am confident that my motion will be adopted by a good majority. I was misled when told our district meeting was today but it is next Sunday so I will relay the results of the vote then. As these efforts proceed in my area and hopefully in many others as well, more and more members will finally become aware of the injustices that have been going on for many years. When I take the time to explain exactly what has happened the majority are appalled, regardless of their beliefs.

      We have many ways to combat the bigotry, hatred and exclusion by the religious elements in AA. Our creed of love and tolerance and our traditions of inclusion and acceptance for starters are definitely on our side. They trump the principles of fear, hatred, discrimination and exclusion portrayed by the religious fanatics forcing this issue.

      We have one additional trump card now as a result of a secular member in Toronto (Larry K.) having the courage, wisdom and fortitude to initiate a charge of discrimination, based on creed, against GTAI, GSO, AAWS, etc. There is little doubt in my mind that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal will rule in Larry’s favour. The law is (IMHO) definitely on the side of secular AA’s position on this issue.

      If we win the case in Toronto Vancouver will be next if the errant intergroup committees don’t do the right thing for the right reasons and quickly. I believe they eventually will do so voluntarily, but if not, they will be forced to do so by the law. Either way we win and justice WILL be served.

      I felt the least I could was initiate a process within our service structure to address and correct this problem on our own before having the solution forced on us by an outside agency. I hope many other secular members across North America make an effort to do the same prior to the GSC in New York (April 17-23, 2016).

      Larry, you have been a great inspiration to me and I thank you from the bottom of my little atheist heart! 🙂

      Thanks to all of you for the positive feedback and the part that each of you play in my sobriety.

      Mike

    • Donald Turner March 13, 2016 at 1:52 pm Reply

      nyet.

      “AA is not allied with any sect, denomination…”

  9. Donald Turner March 13, 2016 at 9:42 am - Reply

    Bravo, Mike B.

    What a travesty that we are driven to this. bleeding deacons, blinded by fear and ego, driven to ignore ample tradition, both written and verbal wisdom.

    Under the misinformed and deluded guise of Love, projecting fear, and intolerance; principles we are cautioned specifically to watch for.

    “there is a god, and I will beat you until you acknowledge it” inference. yet, it’s the very lack of supporting evidence or any intercession by fabled gods, that cause myself and others to challenge the dogma, unbelievable.

    I as of late, lack the fortitude or endurance to engage the theists. it’s inevitably a debate of feelings versus reason and logic. which, is unwinnable.

    I was taught early on in my recovery, that “Feelings aren’t facts”. that the 12 steps help us to go from “sensitivity to sensibility”. yet with the force of politics and mob mentality, the world is gleefully embracing nebulous feelings, driven by 100 forms of fear, racing to the bottom, back into the caves, of invisible man in the sky idol worship.

    best wishes, and Namaste

    • Chuck D. March 14, 2016 at 8:31 am Reply

      Thanks to all of you for fighting against this injustice!! I hope Vermont will join in eventually.

      Most Sincerely,

      Chuck D.

  10. Thomas B March 13, 2016 at 9:17 am - Reply

    What an incredibly marvelous demonstration of our 12 Concepts of Service in live action within AA’s General Service structure. This is an exemplary example of an individual AA member, motivated by the principles of AA’s code of love and tolerance as well, as the Responsibility Declaration, to take concrete  action within our inverted triangle of General Service.

    Who knows whether it will pass muster at his District and move forward to Area 79 British Columbia/Yukon, but it exemplifies how anyone in AA, anywhere can take definitive action with reasoned respect for others in a most dignified and rational manner to propose action within AA to further insure that we operate and function within the spirit of our principles, history and traditions.

    I salute you, Mike B., for taking this initiative to use AA’s General Service structure and the 12 Concepts of Service to bring this most pertinent emergency issue before this year’s General Service Conference in New York.

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