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AA faces discrimination probe over treatment of non-believers

AA faces discrimination probe over treatment of non-believers

Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal ruled last week that a full investigation should be held into an allegation that Alcoholics Anonymous in Toronto discriminates against non-believers.

According to the Toronto Sun, in 2011, Toronto’s two secular AA groups – Beyond Belief and We Agnostics – were expelled and “delisted” from the roster of local AA meetings because they’d written God out of AA’s famous 12 steps to recovery found in its “bible”, The Big Book.

Five of the steps specifically mention the Almighty, including:

(We) sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

The newspaper’s Michele Mandel wrote:

That may have worked for the majority when they were first penned in 1939, but many seeking recovery today were uncomfortable with the religious, church-like aspect of the program – so they formed new support groups that eliminated the God talk.

On their website, AA Toronto Agnostics explain their philosophy: ‘Our only wish is to ensure suffering alcoholics that they can find sobriety in AA without having to accept anyone else’s beliefs, or having to deny their own.’

They groups adapted the steps to be more secular but AA’s Toronto central office would have none of it and the “rebels” were summarily expelled for their “sacrilege”.

There are now 11 weekly secular AA meetings in the GTA; none can be found on the Greater Ontario Area Intergroup (GTAI) contact listings.

Larry Knight, a member one of the secular groups, took AA World Services and its GTA Intergroup (GTAI) to the tribunal.

Because members of his AA group are agnostic, he says they’ve been expelled from the local Toronto AA directory and have been denied the right to vote:

On matters that are important to all AA members.

Knight wrote to AA’s headquarters in New York asking for its intervention in GTAI’s decision not to list his group. He told the human rights tribunal that he “received no calls and no response from AA”, so he filed his complaint.

The reason we went this way is because after three years of discussion, nothing happened. The clock ran out and we’re still not allowed to vote. It’s important to feel that we are equal partners with an opportunity to speak.

GTAI argued that its members must be prepared to practise the 12-step program and have a belief in God. Knight’s agnostic group, they told the tribunal, is free to “follow its own process” – but not as part of AA’s Toronto umbrella office:

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.

Knight disagreed. He told a preliminary hearing last month:

The only requirement for membership in AA is this desire to achieve sobriety and to help others in this achievement. AA was not meant to be presented on any religious terms and … atheists and agnostics have been included as members in other parts of Canada and the United States over the years in order to promote an inclusive approach to AA membership rather than promote any religious perspective.

After a teleconference with both sides, the tribunal ruled that Knight’s claim of discrimination should go to a full hearing.

22 responses to “AA faces discrimination probe over treatment of non-believers”

  1. Angela_K says:

    Under the guise of helping people, the religious as usual, prey on the vulnerable by replacing one addiction with one far more damaging: religion.

  2. Brian Jordan says:

    Drunk on power.

  3. Stuart H. says:

    The bigger problem is when religious groups have links with the local courts. Around UK there’s a new trend for linking alcohol/substance abuse to other crime, and making it a condition of bail , suspended sentences or early release that the offender get substance abuse ‘treatment’. Fine if you have an efficient local NHS, but many local authorities are turning to cut price ‘third sector’ (i.e. religious) ‘therapy providers’ on the lines of AA – often even more religious and less qualified.
    In my area it gets worse – the Sally Army run the only bail hostel in league with evangelicals inside the probation service, so guys on bail, or others released early for good behaviour, are ‘invited’ to prayer meetings and if they don’t go either get poor reports when they turn up in court or find themselves back inside for breaking the terms of agreements with their godbothering, totally unqualified, ‘supervisors’.

  4. AgentCormac says:

    @Stuart H.
    Thanks for that information regarding the Salvation Army. It is disgraceful that people should be penalised for not complying with the proselytising terms & conditions set by those who effectively preside over their futures. The fact that residents of the hostel are coerced into attending indoctrination sessions as part of their probation is not only immoral it should be illegal. As ever, just imagine the furore if this was an extremist political organisation rather than a religious ‘group’. They would be closed down tomorrow.

  5. Justin Badby says:

    The slimy tentacles of the pious reach everywhere … insidiously, stealthily and deliberately … even into the pants of children.

    I have a mental list of those I trust least. The top of the list are all those who claim to’help’but are only there to infect others with their saintly affliction.

    Next up are those who claim that God Did It. Where It can be anything.

    I was taught Strength of Materials (basically difficult applied maths) by a very smugly arrogant ill mannered professor who suddenly announced one day that Statically Indeterminate Beam Problems were the handiwork work of GOD designed to test Engineering Undergraduates and that we had better get used to it and pray otherwise our degrees would suffer as a consequence. He meant it too. Prick. That was 45 years ago. He’s dead now, rotting in the ground. I only wish he was still here to argue that with me again. He was a bit like that retard professor of thermodynamics of Leeds University and leading dunderhead in the Truth in Science group who are trying to get creationism taught in schools. Look him up … Andy McIntosh. The worlds full of pricks like him.

  6. H3r3tic says:

    As someone who recognises that they are a borderline alcoholic I find this story personally depressing. There are no local services that I can access other than AA and, as a confirmed anti-theist, I suspect that I am unlikely to find succour there. Back to the beer then…

  7. Smokey says:

    As usual, religion takes precedence over people. It’s not about alcoholism or helping anyone, it’s all about brown-nosing Jesus and flaunting it in public.

    I’m just surprised that Jesus isn’t named outright in the 12 steps.

  8. Cali Ron says:

    Staurt H.: America is increasingly doing essentially the same thing. Many of the rehab programs and prisoner/parole outreach programs are Christian organizations and judges are requiring inmates to attend and participate as conditions of early release and parole. Failure to participate can result in delayed release and loss of privileges while still incarcerated.

    As Angela K. mentioned above the religious never miss an opportunity to take advantage of the needy and downtrodden. Even the catholic soup kitchens subject the starving and homeless (who are frequently suffering from mental illness) to sermons and prayers as a condition of assistance.

  9. […] AA faces discrimination probe over treatment of non-believers; Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal ruled last week that a full investigations should be held into an allegation that Alcoholics Anonymous in Toronto discriminates against non-believers. […]

  10. L.Long says:

    Being ‘cured’ by AA or any other type is not a ‘CURE’!!!
    Being cured means that a drug no longer has a hold on you.
    So to test a ‘cure’ you look at a bottle of your favorite booze, pour a half a shot….smell it …drink it…appreciate it…and then wash the glass and put the bottle away for 6mo and then try it again!!! Now you are cured! Anything else is just duct tape over a nasty wound you will not allow to heal!!! Because no one gets addicted because they like to drink the schite, they get addicted by the numb feeling they try to get to cover over the wound they refuse to let heal.
    So right off the mark ‘AA’ is a fraud!!!

  11. Rob Andrews says:

    @L Long:

    from what I read some alcoholism is the result of psychic wounds but there are other that are essentially the result of a ‘defect’ in the nervous system. In other words it’s like insulin for diabetics. The alcohol is simply taking the place of a natural neurotransmitter.

    For these people especially, imaginary ‘sky god’ cures are indeed hurtful and cruel. You’re a sinner because you don’t have serotonin or dopamine or whatever ill understood neurotransmitter.

  12. barriejohn says:

    The religious haven’t got a clue about addiction, but they really cum in their pants when they get the opportunity to preach to them, and even better tell everyone else what “The Lord” has been “doing through them”! I remember Billy Graham banging on about drug addicts “getting high on Jesus”, whatever that is supposed to mean, and other advice like “Let go and let God”. It all sounds very good, but doesn’t amount to a row of beans. In fact, it can do a lot of harm, and replacing one form of addiction with another (religion) gets you nowhere. It is no coincidence to me that Graham and that other god-bothering creep, Norman Vincent Peale, were members of a mutual admiration society. AA’s “method” has a lot in common with Positive Thinking, which, as I have said many times before, is dangerous claptrap masquerading as real science (much like homoeopathy, etc). Rob Andrews is right – there are addictive personalities, and there are reasons for that. I was addicted to Valium for ten years, and some of the advice that I received from helpful Christians was laughable. I knew people who were advised by evangelists and pastors to throw their tablets down the toilet, ended up in a worse state, and had to seek medical help again. No, Jesus is NOT enough.

    https://youtu.be/TebjH-KbuFg

    I love the chart showing the damage that alcohol is doing to the body. As if any alcoholic needs to be told THAT!

  13. barriejohn says:

    PS I’ve been looking at a few of the other videos highlighted alongside that one, and I found this:

    https://youtu.be/2PskctKms-Y

    I’m just looking for the one where Jesus heals an amputee!

  14. Cali Ron says:

    barriejohn: Thanks for the link. Next time I need to be cured of a tattoo I’ll be sure to get “born again” again.

    I remember in the late 60’s to early 70’s when a lot of young people were experimenting with drugs the most popular line from evangelicals trying to proselytize them was “I don’t need drugs, I get high on christ”. Victory Outreach was comprised almost completely of street kids “saved” from the scourge of drugs and street life by god and their standard line was “I used to get high on drugs, but now I get high on Christ”. Of course, they housed these young people in overcrowded, substandard housing, fed them meager meals of crappy food, immersed them in religious indoctrination and used them as free labor to proselytize other kids or dragged them to churches to show what great work they were doing for god while they passed the offering plate around. They are still using the same tactics today to ensnare vulnerable young people into their cult.

    I’m so glad we are both free from toxic evangelical indoctrination now.

  15. barriejohn says:

    Cali Ron: Isn’t it amazing how God can look after such trifling matters, but preventing a tsunami from drowning thousands is completely beyond his power!

  16. Cali Ron says:

    barriejohn: Christians would say god works in mysterious ways which is a pathetic excuse for god letting innocents die by the thousands. In reality god doesn’t work in any way at all, cause he only exist in their imaginations.

  17. John says:

    We are hopeful of establishing a secular alternative to AA in Watford.
    Hopefully, we will have further news to report in the near future.

  18. John the Drunkard says:

    I’ve been a ‘nonbelieving’ member of AA since 1988. This whole incident is SUCH bullshit. Tinkering with AA literature is frowned upon. With some good reasons, lots of groups in the U.S. would just LOVE to put Jeebus all over every meeting. While there aren’t any AA Police to stop them, so far they’ve been resisted pretty effectively.

    The ‘Godless Heathens’ meeting that I secretary does not recite The Steps, period. The idolatrous focus on Steps is a recent phenomenon in AA, which IS promoted by religious types, the treatment industry etc.

    It is entirely possible that the Toronto incident involves simple spite on the part of someone in their intergroup office. OR an attempt to ‘correct’ AA by an over-ambitious leader of the secular meetings.

    It is perfectly possible and acceptable for an AA meeting to be expressly secular. Just as it could be for women, or men, or LGBT etc.

    I’d recommend:
    http://aacultwatch.blogspot.com/
    Some ‘fellas’ in England who are fighting against the rise of authoritarian, and religious, creeps in AA.

  19. John the Drunkard says:

    On more careful reading. This is obviously a case of Toronto’s intergroup going off the rails. AA literature is FULL of disclaimers about any hint of religious requirements. There’s no shortage of cheezy pieties form Bill W. But even he backed down a great deal in a lot of his later writings.

    The ‘as we understood him’ weasel words were forced into the book by Jim B. an atheist member since well before the book was written.

    Alcoholism is a life and death matter for alcoholics, it is deeply offensive that a particular group, or members thereof, could redefine A.A. membership to their own liking.

    In it’s full-length form, the 3rd Tradition states:
    ‘Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an A.A. group, provided that, as a group, they have no other affiliation.’

    As usually read:
    ‘The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.’

    Someone in Toronto can’t read.

  20. John says:

    It seems – as ever – the extremist religionists are once again trying to insinuate themselves into areas where they are not wanted nor needed.
    Any opportunity to manipulate and mind-wash vulnerable people is welcomed by these leeching parasites.
    Probably, the problem is not so much AA itself as much as it is the unprincipled behaviour of extremist religionists who want to exploit others.
    Many people do not understand what the true motivation of the Salvation Army is today. Whatever it’s original motivation, it is extremist religious ideology that rules in the Sally Army in this day and age.
    They will exploit anyone to achieve their goals.
    Anyone – however vulnerable.

  21. Jack Blair says:

    AA in my area (Vancouver) wasn’t always so religious. It’s gotten so over the last ten or so years. The religious bigots have executed a well planned hijacking of my beloved AA. After 26 years I was finally driven out. I now go to the AAAA meetings in my area. And like Toronto we too have been delisted by the grand inquisitors at area intergroup.
    This delisting is a very loud indictment of the evangelical extremists that have and are doing everything they can to turn AA from a fellowship of suffering alcoholics into a religious cult. They are meeting with some success. Mainly, I think, because not enough freethinkers are willing to go nose to nose with these theist nazis.
    Do what I do; never miss an opportunity at one of these god-thumper meetings to say loudly, clearly, and often that the only requirement for membership is NOT a belief in any religious mass psychosis.
    Wanna fight? Bring it on fuckers- I’m not going anywhere!!

  22. Because of the drip drip drip of intense brainwashing and indoctrination there is huge catholic paranoia, they seem quite  incapable of understanding anyone  that has a different point of view. Freedom of conscience and expression is still a long way off from being accepted here.