Does Mandatory AA/NA Violate the First Amendment?

The First Amendment says, in part, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .” There are two religion clauses in the amendment, the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the Free Exercise Clause in relation to G.S. 14-208.18, the law that’s preventing some sex offenders from attending church. Thinking about that issue reminded me of a question I was asked about the Establishment Clause: does it violate the Establishment Clause to require a probationer to attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous?

Three federal circuit courts have held that coerced participation in 12-step programs like AA and NA violates the First Amendment. In Kerr v. Ferry, 95 F.3d 472 (7th Cir. 1996), the Seventh Circuit held that requiring an inmate to attend NA meetings or risk suffering adverse effects for parole eligibility violated the Establishment Clause. The Second Circuit reached a similar conclusion in Warner v. Orange County Department of Probation, 115 F.3d 1068 (2d Cir. 1997), striking a probation condition requiring attendance at AA meetings. And most recently the Ninth Circuit determined that a parolee’s First Amendment rights were violated when his parole officer forced him to attend 12-step meetings as a condition of his parole. Inouye v. Kemna, 504 F.3d 705 (9th Cir. 2007). In the latter two cases the courts found the law sufficiently clearly established to abrogate the officers’ qualified immunity. Qualified immunity shields government officials from liability for civil damages “insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982). In other words, Warner and Inouye were able to go forward with lawsuits against their officers for damages for violation of their constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Numerous federal district courts and state supreme courts have reached the same conclusion.

It’s possible that the Fourth Circuit might rule differently. The judges here continue to apply the Lemon test (derived from Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971)) in Establishment Clause cases, whereas the circuit courts listed above used a slightly different “coercion test.” Mellen v. Bunting, 327 F.3d 355 (4th Cir. 2003); Gray v. Johnson, 436 F. Supp. 2d 795, 800 n. 4 (W.D. Va. 2006) (distinguishing the tests). But given the general march toward unanimity around the country, I generally advise judges (and probation officers, who are really the ones at greatest risk of getting sued) to avoid AA or NA as a mandatory condition of probation. It’s okay to make participation optional. See Gray, 436 F. Supp. 2d at 801 (prison substance abuse program did not run afoul of the Establishment Clause when it made AA and NA participation optional). And it would be permissible to make participation in some type of recovery program mandatory as long as a secular option were available. See O’Connor v. California, 855 F. Supp. 303 (C.D. Cal. 1994) (upholding use of AA/NA as part of a drunk driving sentence when the defendant was given a choice over what program to attend). Examples of secular options include Secular Organizations for Sobriety, LifeRing,, and SmartRecovery.

Finally, I’ll note that what’s not at issue in these cases is the question of whether AA is, in fact, religion-based. The litigants typically agree that it is, and the courts are unpersuaded by the idea that it’s “spiritual” and not religious. Here are the traditional twelve steps:

1.  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable.

2.  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4.  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5.  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6.  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7.  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8.  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9.  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10.  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11.  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.

12.  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

What do you think?

135 thoughts on “Does Mandatory AA/NA Violate the First Amendment?”

  1. I would say the vast majority of Judges and/or Probation Officers that require Offenders to attend AA/NA meetings as part of their substance abuse treatment program are unaware of the “spiritual” aspects of the program, but are influenced by it’s long standing reputation as an effective, community based program that is free of charge and available virtually every day of the week at some location that is convenient for the Offender. I would think that as long as Judges and Officers put, “Attend AA/NA or other approved community based substance abuse counseling program.” on the order, this should resolve the issue of liability.

    • Well, sometimes it is ok to be wrong. Our Judge who established drug Court is in fact a Christian who gives the “convicted” a choice. Go to jail or go to AA, or go to some secular program. Your choice. Jail will get you about a 9% effectiveness rate (9% still sober after 5 years), and a secular program will get you about a 7% sober rate after 5 years and going to AA will get you about a 75% effectiveness rate, that is sober after 5 years…again…take your pick. That approach is not mandatory AA attendance in nay way, the “convicted” have a choice. So much for your ideas of the 1st admendance and that judges don’t know what they are doing. Maybe a whole lot of judgas don’t, but the ones who have looked at the facts, have a real winner in DRUG COURT. Cost the county next to nothing either, since jail and secular programs are very expensive and AA is FREE. So…………….spread the word. Good Luck.

      • “AA will get you about a 75% effectiveness rate”

        Why don’t you ‘Take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth.’ Google ‘aa efficacy’. AA has nothing like a 75% success rate.

        • there are generally NO NON-RELIGIOUS programs within traveling distance. The closest to me is over 100 miles. This would be a dirty political trick in almost all cases. These programs that lie about the intentions of the program have cornered the market on recovery. It is a violation of an atheist’s constitutional rights to be forced to attend meetings that are, in every case, more religious than a church mass.

      • AA has about a 5% effectiveness rate, making it the least effective treatment option for addiction.

      • “AA will get you about a 75% effectiveness rate”

        Really? Got any proof?

        Get to another Bill W meeting and take a moral inventory. That sir, is an outright LIE.

        • Boy these AA people really don’t like you bashing the program. And it is hard to bad mouth something that’s helped so many people, but it is not for me. I got sober for 18 years without it. And I was not just a “dry drunk” that was miserable. I raised a family and was happy. I went to 1 meeting in those 18 years and that was to support my brother-in-law. Some really bad things happened to me, I fell off the wagon, got a DUI and now I am forced to go to AA 3 times a week and resent the hell out of it. “We accept atheists” is not good enough. There is enough religious overtones to make it feel like a church and it’s not something I want to listen to. Usually the secretaries will sign my card immediately and I bug out, but not always. Dare I say that some AA worshipers are flat out ignorant. I’ve actually heard “anybody who doesn’t work this program is not serious about getting sober”

          • I agree. Yes, before AA and even today many get sober by themself. When i began going to AA i entered sober. In the past i went sober for 5 years quiting cold turkey, as i did now. That means some do have the will power. I still attend meetings to here what people have to say and learn some things from it. First thing i did is to read the history of Bill he never really recovered he replaced alchohol with acid, cocaine and sex. He was most of the time delusional suffering from serious mental illness, where he would get hospitalused. He slept with many female AA members some 20 years younger. And before dying he asked for whisky, when the nurses refused he got very angry it was not given to him. Lets say if the nurses would have he would have died an alchoholic. He was very difficult to deal with. His collages wore angry with him for a decate. So the Bill story as Bill see it. No where describes the real facts. He had no morals. And most think he was almost a saint.

      • Your percentages are way off. Studies show that AA is no more effective than cognitive based therapy or motivational therapy. None of which have a success rate of more than 30%. In fact, only 5% of alcoholics that attend an AA merting are still involved with AA after one year.

      • I would love to some empirical data as a mental health clinician from the peer reviewed literature that affirms your claims

      • Hogwash. AA’s effectiveness rate is virtually 0%. Spontaneous decision to quit without AA, 5%. Decision to quit with AA, 5%

      • Dude! Seriously? If you are an A.A./N.A. member, you should try another program. It’s not working. Obviously you’re still high.

        I’ve done the research and unless you accidentally misplaced the decimal point in your 75% assertion, you are wrong by 72.25-74.25%.

        Those programs barely work. In fact, an addict has a better chance at recovery going it alone. Especially since those programs maintain constant recovery. No cure, just “keep coming back. It works if you work it.”

      • The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) states about 5 to 8 percent of individuals who join 12-Step programs recover.(1) In other studies, it was found that 5% of people who attend AA meetings remain abstinent after three years. AA’s own statistics show that, only 5% of alcoholics still attend meetings after one year.(2) According to AA’s 2014 membership survey, 27% of members have been sober less than one year, 24% have 1–5 years sober, 13% have 5–10 years, 14% have 10–20 years, and 22% have more than 20 years sober.(3)

        What defines a disease? In the language of the AMA (American Medical Association), “For a condition to be defined as a disease it requires that an illness meet both of the following conditions: Morbidity – a state of unhealthiness and Pathology – signs and symptoms.” Alcoholism and addiction absolutely meets both conditions and it is a physical disease of the brain(4). This AMA definition was not advanced to fit solely the classification of alcoholism or addiction, but all diseases.

        Someone may ask what organization with credentials follows the disease model of alcoholism? Below are some heavy hitters that do:

        • The American Society of Addiction Medicine
        • American Medical Association
        • World Health Organization
        • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
        • The American Psychiatric Association
        • The American Hospital Association
        • American Public Health Association
        • National Association of Social Workers
        • American College of Physicians

        As a short coming of AA, nowhere in the field of medicine is the treatment of a disease less grounded in modern science than in AA. A.A. had its beginnings on 1935 in Akron, Ohio, as the outcome of a meeting between Bill W., a New York stockbroker, and Dr. Bob S., an Akron surgeon. It has changed very little over the years. The 12 Steps of AA recognize addiction largely from a moralistic standpoint.(5) In most regards, describing addiction as a reflection of moral character and moral choice takes us back to an earlier, more ignorant time. Science now shows that addiction is not a simple phenomenon. It stems from multiple causes rather than character flaws. “Scientific research tells us that alcoholism is not a spiritual disease, lack of will power, a personality disorder or a mental illness. Yes, it does impact an individual on the spiritual and psychological levels in a profound way, and alter the personality, but the root of alcoholism is in biochemistry.” (6)

        In any other area of medicine, if your doctor told you that the cure for your disease involved surrendering to a “Higher Power,” praying to have your “defects of character” lifted, and then asked you to find a solution through complete “powerlessness,” you would probably seek a second opinion. Then, if you were to balk at these elements of the 12-step gospel, you may get accused of being “in denial.” What is more, if you were to succeed in quitting without 12-step support, you might get dismissed as a “dry drunk.” Those who do not respond to the 12 steps way are often branded as unmotivated or unwilling. For those who do not find success in Alcoholics Anonymous members often stereotype the addicted individual by saying that they just have not “hit their bottom” or they “didn’t work the program,” but this is often not true. Sometimes the real problem is that 12 step treatment programs, as beneficial as they remain, still are not that effective. To say to somebody, “AA is the only thing that works,” is unprincipled because it is not factual.(7) (8)

        Stereotyping addiction sufferers as immoral characters is not helpful to many addicts. It is a shame-based concept that may discourage a person from reaching out for help. Who in addiction would choose to feel worse about themselves than they already feel?(9) Furthermore, I have known plenty of people who seemingly behave in a spiritually and morally defective manner who are not alcoholic and those who have lead exemplary lives who are very alcoholic.

        (1) What Is the Success Rate of AA? – Retrieved October 19, 2017, from

        (2) Alcoholics Anonymous ID # 5M/12-90/TC summarized in Vince Fox’s Addiction, Change, and Choice (1993)

        (3)Alcoholics Anonymous 2014 Membership Study, A.A. World Services. 2014.

        (4) American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Origins Behavioral Health Care – Alcoholism and Addiction as a Brain Disease. (April 25, 2011) Retrieved November 1, 2017 from

        (5) Alcoholics Anonymous – The Basic Text, Chapter 5, How it Works – Steps 4, 5, 6, 8, 10. pg. 59, 4th edition.

        (6) Cynthia Perkins, M.Ed. Alternatives for Alcoholism – Achieve Long-term and Craving Free Sobriety by Correcting Addictive Brain Chemistry. Retrieved October 19, 2017 from

        (7) Schrank, Joe MSW. How Smart Is Smart Recovery? The Fix. (08/30/12) The Fix Retrieved October 15, 2017 from

        (8) NIAAA Reports Project MATCH Main Findings Archived 2007-10-29 at the Wayback Machine., Press release from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Dec 1996. Retrieved 2007-05-25.

        (9) Richard G. Soper, MD, JD, MS, FASAM | March 13, 2014 ASAM American Society of Addiction Medicine: Character Defect or Chronic Disease? Retrieved October 19, 2017, from publications/magazine/read/article/2014/03/13/addiction-character-defect-or-chronic-disease

    • A.A. now a days say a “God of your understanding” A.A. does not tell you who your God will be . They tell you that it is a God of your understanding. Many people have a problem with the word God when they first walk into the rooms of A.A.but many of them have long term sobriety. Those people who have a long time Sobriety will tell you the word God scared them to death, but they have time ranging any where from 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 19… of Sobriety. But the thing is it works, because when they finally see the world in Sober eyes. They woke up and spoke up on Things.

      • This posting is not about how successful AA has been for many people, it’s about whether or not it’s constitutional to be forced to attend something that might be considered religious in nature. Save you posts on how great AA is and how it’s not working for you yet “because you have to work it and keep coming back”. People who attend the meetings say it’s not a religion; “we accept atheists, “you choose your own higher power”, etc. They just don’t see it for the excessively christian thing it really is. How is an atheist supposed to work a step that directly involves god and praying?

        • Please tell me where Christ is mentioned in AA? God is mention in the steps yes, not the Traditions, the Traditions say it is non secular. You can say it is religious according to the courts, but there is no basis at all for the word Christian. I personally believe that offenders should be offered a choice, jail or a recovery program if their choice. No one should be coerced into AA.

  2. Probation/Parole officers are bound by the courts. So, if the sentencing judge orders that an offender attend AA/NA we as officers are required to send the offender to AA/NA. Some treatment agencies require the offender to attend AA/NA as a condition of the treatment process. Usually as a follow up program. If the Probation officers and Judges are liable and can possibly be sued for requiring an offender to attend AA/NA then what about the treatment agency/agencies. There is so much media and political involvement in DWI issues that we as court personnel are liable if the offender does not attend required treatment. Where do we cut off the treatment process? Do we take God out of the 12 steps process so as not to offend someone or do we require thet offender to attend AA/NA so we can possibly help the offender to stop drinking and endangering the public. Their is a treatment process and if AA/NA is part of it at this time. It is our job to protect the public and if AA/NA is part of the treatment process and aids in public safety and in improving the health of the offender then I do not see where this should be an issue. Do we offend some who do not like this or do we do our our job and protect and assist the offender?

    • Don’t you take an oath to protect the innocent and uphold the law? Every single state in the country is secular, as is the nation’s federal level. You don’t have to follow orders which are blatantly illegal in the eyes of the constitutions of the state and nation.

    • We need to remember that AA/NA meetings are not the same as treatment. There is a difference between treatment and recovery so to put the two in the same sentence is false in itself. One of the basis of your 12 step programs is that is it supposed to be voluntary so by mandating this it violates some of the programs basic fundamentals.

    • You are assuming that AA participation is an effective part of the “treatment process,” and therefore will enhance public safety and in improving the health of the offender.” There is no data or evidence that support that AA is effective, and what data is there in the research indicates it can be counter-productive. To suggest opponents of coerced AA participation are attempting to take “God out of AA” is a ridiculous statement; the belief in a “higher power”, and giving one’s will Gods will” are two of the fundamental principles of AA. So no, the argument has nothing to with taking God out of AA, but instead taking mannated AA participation out of the “treatment process”, which is clearly unconstitutional. It is a faith based program, plain and simple. I am not “offended” by this practice, or by use of “God” in any voluntary situation. In fact I strongly support and individuals right to do so. But it cannot be mandated, or the basis for criminal punishment if it is not, anymore than mandating an offender attend a Christian church , or Jewish synagogue, or Wiccan ritual.

      • There is a significant body of peer reviewed research that indicates 12 Step meeting attendance is effective in curbing addictive behaviors. There is even research that indicates coerced participation is as effective as voluntary attendance in extending the benefits of treatment. Google John F. Kelly at the Harvard School of Medicine.

      • Kelly, there you are wrong, quite wrong. The studies that have been done mostly lacked any serious scientific value, here’s some info about it:

        I will throw right out, that I’m an avid NA and AA member with 8 years clean, and yeah I’m biased, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m correct here. If you take a list of people who all attended AA, yeah, that study is gonna show AA as piss poor therapy. Now if you take that same study and measure levels of involvement, the results go WAY up. Like with anything, you get what you put into it. There seems to be a strong anti 12 step sentiment in the medical community, but they want to make money, AA and NA only want to help. It’s really just common sense. Even if you don’t do the steps, just hanging out with other people trying not to drink can help. If you do the steps, results happen, or we wouldn’t have thrived like we have.

        Personally I’d like to see court slips done away with; religion and government have no place together. That said, AA is spiritual, not religious, but the vast majority of members are religious. I cannot find any argument that anyone should ever be told they have to be at meetings (and hey our success rate would skyrocket). Thing is, it’s god of one’s own understanding. I know folks from Atheist to Orthodox jew, and all have recovered alike, when they take the steps.

      • While I am 11 years sober and I know of exactly zero Wiccan people sober I do hundreds of happy sober people and all profess a deep relationship with. God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Ironically those of. U.S. In AA don’t want Paper People (court ordered) in our meetings anymore than they. Typically want to be there. Show me another private institution that the court orders people to attend without approval from the very people they are imposing upon. We tolerate it Because randomly someone sits and sticks (stays sober) and that is a miracle from God.

        • Sorry to burst your Bubble of Delusion, Aaron, but I happen to be Wiccan and have never been an alcoholic or drug addict, so therefore, that would make me a SOBER Wiccan. And BTW, I do not drink by choice, not because I’m in “recovery”, but because I personally just don’t care for it. I too know hundreds of happy sober people who DO NOT believe in YOUR god, nor that your saviour Jesus Christ was anything but a wise, spiritual man who had a way with words and was a captivating speaker. My husband happens to be in the process of recovery and has been an atheist his entire life. He is a good man who had some difficult years as a teenager and young adult, but he got himself clean and sober on his own strength of character, not by pretending an invisible man in the sky did it for him. People like you and your ridiculous statements like someone getting sober is a “miracle from god” is QUITE offensive and the exact reason most rational adults being forced to attend the Church of AA resist as strongly as they do. Its interesting how people like you insist those who don’t agree with your views have an open mind, but you refuse to do the same.

        • Aloha, Aaron –

          As it happens, I am a real alcoholic and I am 31 years sober TODAY. My sobriety date is May 25, 1086.

          I am not a Wiccan, but I am an atheist. I try to to practice both the Twelve Steps of A.A. and the Seven Fundamental Tenets of the Satanic Temple in all my affairs, and I am fully committed to but I am not perfect at either. The god of my understanding is the laws of physics, which govern the operation of the entire universe and everything within it. This is certainly a power greater than myself and also a power greater than alcohol that is sufficient to help me achieve and maintain a contented, happily useful sobriety.

          I welcome any alcoholic to my meeting, regardless of who they are, what they believe, or how they got there, just as I was welcomed when I first arrived. I would extend the hand of A.A. towards you, despite the fact that I find your bigotry offensive. You are free to offend – it is your absolute right – and I also forgive you for being the bigoted a-hole you are, because it’s clear to me from your comments that you are not yet spiritually developed enough to do any better at this point. I do hope you will stay sober and continue to make spiritual progress, and I wish you well in every way.

          For your information, I do not worship Satan or any other imaginary friend, but I do place my life on a spiritual basis, and in addition to the Twelve Steps, I try to live by these spiritual principles:

          ⛧ The Seven Fundamental Tenets of the Satanic Temple ⛧

          I. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.

          II. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.

          III. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.

          IV. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.

          V. Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.

          VI. People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.

          VII. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

          If you or anyone else reading this would like to know morte about The Satanic Temple, our beliefs or our practices, I invite you to visit

          Peace be with you.

          — Keith

        • I know Aaron, who decided that AA must put up with people who don’t want to be there in the first place . How did that get voted on and approved I will tell you when the courts figured all the money they would make and all the job security to be had that’s how. Most of the people coming in on paper are meth users of herion. Alcohol is not there drug of choice. Treatment centers seem to bring their clients to AA instead of NA geez I wonder why ? NA seems to have the problem if you use the word alcohol in their meetings they certainly make that clear. I would like a dime every time I hear the word drug addic in a AA meeting yet we turn the other cheek . I for one am sick of the in and out up and down talking in these meetings I say if your A alcoholic go to AA if your a drug addic go to NA same if the courts are getting away with forcing people (jail or program) then what ever you got arrested for you go to that.

      • There is a passage in AA about atheism. Many people go to recovery with no belief. People are encouraged a lot to think of a group as a higher power. Higher power is defined as loving, caring and greater than yourself in NA. no other conditions.

        • That’s true, however, it’s impossible to escape the religious overtones at every 12-step meeting. Any group that opens and closes every meeting with at least one prayer cannot call itself non-religious.

    • Personally, the issue is not whether or not I am “offended” rather, I want the same level of treatment as any religious person might have, also value and appreciate Constitutional rights, and don’t feel it’s the right of the State to force me into classes where I am told to believe in God because I am insane and powerless without Him.

    • Narcotics Anonymous is a 12 step program that has made an effort to encourage atheistic members to alter the program’s principles in order to fit in. While Alcoholics Anonymous only accepts those addicted to alcohol, NA considers alcohol just another drug. Unlike the AA literature, which encourages atheists to abandon their godless ideas, NA’s literature, from the start, has made it clear that atheism is welcome.

      • Yes, but if they MUST attend, they are subjected to seriously egregious tactics in an effort to recruit people into the religion of AA. So? Resist! Well, sure. But, that doesn’t change the fact that some will bite. If some will bite, the courts are clearly sending potential converts to the AA rooms and thereby supporting the establishment of a religion. That IS a 1st amendment issue, even if none bite.

        • “Yes, but if they MUST attend, they are subjected to seriously egregious tactics in an effort to recruit people into the religion of AA.”

          such as??? it’s easy to throw out inflammatory, general statements but there’s no reason to believe you unless you can provide specific evidence.

    • Plain and simple AA/NA is court-mandated religion and that is a violation of Constitutional rights as well as the separation of church and state. They can try to disguise the religious aspects by using “spiritual” and playing semantic word games but to a secular non-theist who doesn’t even buy into vaguely defined spirituality it’s very much an offense to force and coerce them into attending a program that demands they admit they have no power over themselves and need to surrender their will to an imaginary deity.

    • The offender still have constitutional rights, including the right to freedom of religion. Just because someone who has been found guilty of a criminal offense does not mean they give up their human rights, I would argue the state has a positive duty under the 14th amendment to ensure equal access to secular option, even if they have to spend money and create these options.

  3. I spent many years working with a District Court Judge who was a recovering alcoholic and who would frequently attend as many as 4 to 6 AA meetings per week. This judge often mentioned the availability of AA meetings to defendants but never ordered it as a condition of probation. The courts and treatment programs inherently must approach the utilization of AA differently.

  4. The Judgement for Impaired Driving Offenses has, #11 in SPECIAL CONDITIONS OF PROBATION, “Obtain a substance abuse assessment and all recommended education or treatment”. I have not left any words out. This does not specify that the assessment has to be a DWI assessment. We know that in order to get the NCDL back, the offender has to complete the DWI “school”. Rarely, do I see a Judge specify a DWI assessment and treatment in the #17 block. As the Judge is not filling out the Judgement him/herself (the deputy clerk is the one listening and writing out the Judgement), many Judgements become a document subject to interpretation. A regular condition of probation is that probationers cooperate with the probation officer by answering reasonable inquiries. Would “voluntarily submitting to AA/NA”, in block #17, be too subjective? I have never seen a treatment program require an offender to attend AA/NA. I have however, seen it recommended as an aftercare program.

  5. I agree that as Officers it is our duty to uphold the conditions imposed by the court and agencies (substance abuse, aftercare recommendations) HOWEVER I wish to interject it is ordered that they must ATTEND the program/group. The attendance is what is key and while it is the intent of the court to have the person PARTICIPATE in the group, they are not bound to do so and they are not bound to adopt the principles of the group. As they are not required to speak and/or adopt the principles, I do not believe that the 1st Amendment is applicable here. I believe that as officers, we should be inherently immune from any consequence suffered in enforcing any order of the court. It is our job capacity to enforce ALL the conditions imposed by the court, we do not impose the conditions.

    • Mr. Noto, I think you are missing a particularly important aspect of the first amendment consideration.
      Let us assume that attendance does not require participation in groups like AA/NA. It is accepted that those organizations are in fact religious in nature as stated above. This does not exactly make them equatable with churches as that label acts as a much larger net. Think, however, of an instance where any other kind of forced religious attendance would be permissible. For one without any belief in a higher power, forced attendance would be tantamount to sending them to a Church Service, albeit one slightly reduced in helpful content. Also one might simply hold a particularly different kind of belief system than the one being offered, that of a singular, powerful, well meaning, basically good deity.
      You can force someone to attend traffic school because it educates them about the laws regarding driving. Nowhere does a higher power enter into that education. Those laws are secular in nature. AA/NA and others mix religion and psychological sciences in a dangerous way that is more about shifted dependency than addressing the underlying issues of chemical dependency.

    • For the simple fact that you choose to ignore an individual’s religious beliefs, instead of recognizing that the first amendment inherently provides total and irrevocable relief from said atmosphere, leaves your comment completely devoid of merit. You should excuse yourself from ever participating in a conversation about inalienable rights vs your own personal interpretations of the constitution. Forcing someone to ATTEND A RELIGIOUS PROGRAM is a DIRECT ASSAULT ON THEIR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS. PLAIN AS BLACK AND WHITE. You can twist words as you see fit, you’re still unequivocally WRONG.

      • Narcotics Anonymous is a 12 step program that has made an effort to encourage atheistic members to alter the program’s principles in order to fit in. While Alcoholics Anonymous only accepts those addicted to alcohol, NA considers alcohol just another drug. Unlike the AA literature, which encourages atheists to abandon their godless ideas, NA’s literature, from the start, has made it clear that atheism is welcome.

    • Cheri: Here is a point you must comprehend: Attendance IS participation, period. Being forced to sit in an openly religious event and forced to ignore all that is being said is ludicrous. What would be the point of mandatory attendance at a religious affair like AA if one is expected to stuff cotton in ones ears and close ones eyes in order to avoid the affront of coerced religion? How does that help? Also, you want immunity for any order you are given ( the Gestapo killers said the same thing at Nuremburg), just like cops want a free pass when they obey even obviously illegal ” orders ” from above? What if a judge ordered your probationer to shine shoes for the public or flagellate himself in front of the store he shoplifted from? Would you be Ok enforcing that?

      Blind obedience always causes abuses because the moral outrage one should realize can be blocked by the legal protection immunity affords..just look at how prosecutors slaughter the intent of the law and subvert justice constantly because of absolute immunity..if you would use unConstitutional means to direct a probationer just because some judge was uneducated about the law or morally corrupted enough to demand debasing sentences, then you should be in another line of work…being a rubber stamp for the abuses of others makes you just as bad.

      And the idea of forcing a defendant to choose incarceration over his firmly held religious beliefs, or lack thereof, is morally repugnant and will fail in the higher courts. Most communities do not have secular alternatives to the AA/NA schemes and so judges need to remove any mention of these outfits except as advice, not as a condition.

    • Yes, but if they MUST attend, they are subjected to seriously egregious tactics in an effort to recruit people into the religion of AA. So? Resist! Well, sure. But, that doesn’t change the fact that some will bite. If some will bite, the courts are clearly sending potential converts to the AA rooms and thereby supporting the establishment of a religion. That IS a 1st amendment issue, even if none bite.

      • NA members are comprised of many different religions, as well as atheists. Narcotics Anonymous is a 12 step program that has made an effort to encourage atheistic members to alter the program’s principles in order to fit in. While Alcoholics Anonymous only accepts those addicted to alcohol, NA considers alcohol just another drug. Unlike the AA literature, which encourages atheists to abandon their godless ideas, NA’s literature, from the start, has made it clear that atheism is welcome.

    • That’s like forcing people to go to church and say they don’t have to participate their very presence is participation

  6. I have recently been ordered to participate in a 12-step program that is based on AA, and as an atheist, I am extremely offended that the judge even considered the idea. I am going to fight this all the way to the supreme court if I have to. What’s extremely important to remember here is that the state CANNOT even SEEM to be endorsing any kind of religious organization, and whether or not individual citizens object on the grounds of a violation of their freedom of religion, there is still a separate and equally valid argument that compelling any person to participate in the activities of a religious organization is a gross violation of the Establishment Clause. I will be seeking an injunction prohibitting judges (in NH, at least) from ordering any individual to participate in AA/NA and all other 12 -step programs based on them. I have the backing of the American Humanist Association, and expect to also have the backing of the American Atheists and the ACLU.

    • Could you please let me of someone to contact on this matter my PO sent me to see a couselor cause there was alcohol in my home its nits supposed to be here It wasnt mine but he had to do his job and sent me to see a couselor I only have 12 months on federal probation left never had no problems no write ups no dirty uas no run ins with the law nothing in fact I was suppose to be released at my half time due to good behavior but didn’t get the chance like everyone else for unknown reasons anyways the counselor put me in a criminal thinking class and after this last class the person teaching made it mandatory to go to one AA meeting a week or we would flunk the class I tried to protest cause I am an atheist but same if I don’t go I fail if I fail I get arrested if I get arrested I lose my job of almost five years I have a family that depends on me for support and we can’t afford me goin away and to top it off were I work does not hire felons anymore so I would have no chance of getting my job back and I have a good job in the oilfield

    • I have recently been kicked out of my treatment because i have refused to attend the mandatory AA meetings. I am expecting to be serving 6 months in jail because of this. how do i go about fighting this?

    • Wow…. really? Give me a break. I attend AA and they’re NOT a religious organization. The 12 steps/traditions/principles state a “HIGHER POWER”… “a god of YOUR understanding”. Maybe if you read the literature instead of worrying so much about the political correctness of it, you’d know this. AA saved my life!

      • Yes. AA IS a religious organization. Look at the quote you chose again: ‘a GOD of your understanding”. Being a non-denominational religion doesn’t mean AA is NOT a religion. It’s impossible to read AA literature and NOT come to the conclusion that GOD is being used as the answer to the problem of alcoholism. GOD = religion. Try a dictionary? Step 3 requires one to turn their will and their lives over to a GOD of their choosing. Turning your will and your life over to a GOD of any kind is a RELIGIOUS TENET that flies in the face of even the religious beliefs of many. “Alcoholics Anonymous materials and the testimony of the witness established beyond a doubt that religious activities, as defined in constitutional law, were a part of the treatment program. The distinction between religion and spirituality is meaningless, and serves merely to confuse the issue.” – Judge John Shabaz, 7th circuit. Calling a dog a cat repeatedly and convincing 10s of thousands of other people to call a dog a cat repeatedly, does not make a dog a cat. “spiritual not religious” is a lie.

      • How come the “God of Your Understanding” is not allowed to CURE YOU of your addiction in the 12-Step religious AA/NA cult?

        • God can no more “cure” alcoholism and addiction than God can cure diabetes. Nobody mentions cure, no such thing as a cured alcoholic.

      • Way to impose your worldview on other people maybe you should read the Constitution or the ethics code of the American Counseling Association or the Americans Psychological Association

    • Narcotics Anonymous is a 12 step program that has made an effort to encourage atheistic members to alter the program’s principles in order to fit in. While Alcoholics Anonymous only accepts those addicted to alcohol, NA considers alcohol just another drug. Unlike the AA literature, which encourages atheists to abandon their godless ideas, NA’s literature, from the start, has made it clear that atheism is welcome.

    • How can I fight this in
      MICHIGAN???…I was court ordered as condition of probation to attend A.A. 2 times weekly for five years and this God thing is crazy it’s a cult

    • Mike… It is 7 years later since your post. I am attempting to substitute SMART meetings for mandated, nightly AA/NA meetings at a DUI TREATMENT center ( two weeks in patient ) in Tewksbury, MA. I too communicated with AHA. How did you make out on your case? Any advice for me? So far, just stonewalling from probation and treatment center. SMART Recovery gave me handouts about First Amendment court cases.

      Thank you.

  7. I have attended AA for many years and am clean and sober for all those years. The mutual support of other clean and sober people has been very helpful — from emotional support to simple social comeraderie. The 12 steps have been peripheral at best and disturbing at worst, but I have tolerated them in order to enjoy the friendships and support. I have found many people in AA who share my views (for instance, there are several agnostic and atheist AA meetings in larger cities in the U.S.) I strongly believe that the courts have no right to force anyone to attend a 12 step program. As more and more people with various problems, from overeating to adultery, adopt the “12 steps,” a frightening precedent is being set. I would support national legislation to block mandatory attendance at AA meetings or any other 12 step program.

    Mandatory AA meetings not only violate the rights of the person being forced to attend. It violates the rights of people attending an “anonymous” organization who are being required to commit their signatures to a legal document and/or attend meetings with disgruntled individuals. And it violates the most basic tenet of AA that it is for people who desire to be there. The government is simply taking advantage of AA and NA as a way to avoid the costs of treatment programs and/or incarceration. Regretfully AA has been complicit in this in its typical passivity. It is imperative that legal measures are taken to stop the practice of court ordered 12 step program attendance.

    • Umm… it’s NOT mandatory. They give you the choice to do that or do time in jail or prison. So if AA offends you so bad, choose prison or jail.

    • I’ve known many addicts/alcoholics who were required by the courts to attend meetings. Many decide to continue attending long after they are no longer required to. Having found a new way to live that agrees with them, they choose to remain in recovery.

      • Great for them! Really bad for ppl who don’t want to be there. I want to drink more than I ever have after this whole experience. Think they want to hear THAT?

  8. Problems with Alcoholics Anonymous and all 12-Step Programs

    * Most significantly, the first step, admitting you are powerless in combating your addiction seems to completely undermine the entire rehabilitation process. Addiction is an issue of self control. Overcoming it requires personal will power. Outside/External influences can help and often make the difference but if you don’t change, nothing changes. So the first step sets the stage for not taking responsibility for changing ones’ addiction.

    * Failure is no longer your fault – Because the first step encourages people to admit they’re powerless and subsequent steps demand you ask God to take care of things for you, failure is no longer something you need to accept responsibility for. It’s in God’s hands.

    * The first step sets the stage for steps 2, 3, 6 and 7, where you in essence, pledge to replace one addiction (i.e. alcoholism) with another (the A.A. program itself or religion & dependence upon God to effect positive change in your life).

    * Even after one successfully overcomes their addiction, the 12-step programs encourage people to still consider themselves “addicted” and thus incapable of exercising any self-control or self-determination outside the limitations of the program’s world view which gives all credit to God.

    * Clinical studies have shown that 12 step programs are no more effective than not attending a program at all !

    * 12-Step programs are mandated by law/government/courts in many jurisdictions when these programs are clearly religious in nature and a violation of the Separation of church and state.

    * The “God” of your understanding can not and never will “Cure” you of your Alcoholism; kind of makes it their God that you must have.

    • With all due respect, you don’t appear to have your facts straight.

      – “Addiction is an issue of self control.” FALSE- The American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and World Health Organization, have stated that addiction is a disease. Addiction causes long term, and sometimes permanent physiological changes in the brain and body of an addict.

      – “Failure is no longer your fault.” FALSE- 12 Step Programs teach that although we are not responsible for our addiction, we ARE responsible for our recovery.

      – “…you … pledge to replace one addiction with another (the A.A. program itself or religion…)” FALSE- 12 Step Programs and religion do not fit the definition of addiction according to The American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, and World Health Organization. (On a personal note, what do you base such weird opinions on???)

      – “12-step programs encourage people to still consider themselves “addicted” and thus incapable of exercising any self-control or self-determination outside the limitations of the program’s world view…” HALF TRUTH- 12-step programs DO encourage people to still consider themselves “addicted” and incapable of using successfully, but the idea that they encourage addicts to believe that they have no self-control or self-determination is FALSE as well as just ridiculous.

      – “Clinical studies have shown that 12 step programs are no more effective than not attending a program at all!” FALSE- Clinical studies have found the exact opposite to be true. Don’t take my word for it, do your own research:

      – “12-Step programs are mandated by law/government/courts in many jurisdictions when these programs are clearly religious in nature and a violation of the Separation of church and state.” HALF TRUE- AA was originally based on ideas from the Oxford Group, which got their ideas from the Bible. Find more about the connection between AA and the Oxford Group here:
      All 12 step recovery programs grew out of AA, but many 12 step programs do not require that you believe in the Bible, or in any God at all. It is recommended in most 12 step groups that you find a God of your OWN understanding. You can make up a God if you like. Many atheists in the programs put their belief in “G.O.D.” which stands for “Good Orderly Direction,” or make the group itself their higher power.

      – “The “God” of your understanding can not and never will “Cure” you of your Alcoholism; kind of makes it their God that you must have.” IRRELEVANT- No 12 step literature that I have ever seen or heard of has addressed whether any God, of anybody’s understanding will, or will not cure anyone.

  9. Am I the only one that understands, that it does not matter whether it is mandated or not. No government agency, with their employees using public funds ought to be allowed to use the 12 Steps as if it was treatment. First I do not think it even meets standards for treatment. Treatment is allway scientificly based and there is as much scince in AA as Vitamin Z in a glass of orange Juice.

    • Actually, not all “treatment” is scientifically based. Most addiction care is administered by “addiction counselors” for whom there are no national standards of practice. 14 states don’t require any education or licensing at all for addiction counselors. Only six states require addiction counselors to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree; just one requires a master’s degree.Moreover, addiction treatment providers are typically not held accountable for their patients’ outcomes: the report found that nearly half of all patients with illegal drug problems are referred to treatment by the criminal justice system and, of course, it is the patients, not the counselors or program directors, who go to prison if they fail.

      According to Project MATCH, 12 step Facilitation Treatment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Motivational Enhancement Treatment are not that dissimilar, and have about the same short-term success rate. However, the best results appear to be obtained by long term inpatient 12 step Facilitation Treatment followed by long term 12 step meeting attendance, although success rate is significantly lowered by a delay between finishing treatment and beginning meeting attendance. Read more about project MATCH here:

    • Thank you! I become more and more angry at every meeting I am forced to be at. Bottoms up!! I wanna stand up and scream. Not everyone who has a DUI is an alcoholic point blank.

  10. AA has meetings for atheists as well. I hope more people and judges will be enightened that one is not forced into religion. I’ve always believed too that take what works for you and leave the rest. The only requirement for AA is a desire to stop drinking.

    • The fact that they mention God directly in AA steps and literature skews it towards believers of in religions that have a “God” and refer to their deity as “God” no matter what they included later. In the United States is prejudice in favor of Christianity, otherwise we would not be having Government-established holidays on Christmas and Easter, we would not have the phrase “In God We Trust” on our currency and would not require Oaths of Office to be taken upon a Bible or sworn with the mention of God and would God would not be referenced in the Pledge of Allegiance.

  11. I believe we are missing the cornerstone of the foundation here. All sentences involving AA or other forms of diversion are by definition alternative sentences. There are no provisions in the penal codes for such programs, only monetary penalties and incarceration. Alternative sentences are in lieu of incarceration, or at least in significant reduction thereof. The convict is within his rights to decline any provisions not set forth within the code and take the jail time. Of course most don’t, and that amounts to their waiver of rights to constitutional challenge.
    Or so it seems.

    • The judiciary should not provide religious programs as the ONLY available alternative sentence, if any other type exists.

      Not all towns or counties have AA/NA meetings that are friendly to practitioners of non-Christian religions or atheists.

      I also believe that religious organizations that receive federal funding to provide homeless outreach should not be able to require attendance at a sermon or bible study as a precondition of receiving said assistance

      • Yeah you would think that Los Angeles would be all for that. Nope! Still have to attend 16 AA meetings mandatory- no alternative to make probation happy!

    • I would hardly call being trapped between the two options of either incarceration or attendance in a religion a situation that leads to a voluntary waiver of constitutional rights should the person up against such a choice opt for attendance at a religion they find totally offensive. Being up against these two options serves only to coerce a person into a religion. What person really wants to choose incarceration instead? I think this point is clearly understood when a person is trapped between two options that where the lesser of the two evils is being assaulted with the concepts of a thoroughly repugnant religion. I think Game Theory would probably agree with me and just about everyone knows the real odds of what supposed “choice” will be made.

      • Why not? Convicts can get time off of their sentences, and people facing charges can avoid prison times by participating in “Churches Embracing Offenders” programs.

    • Yes. Amen! And while we’re at it how about if we take all those who are guilty of the forms of theft that can lead to a life sentence and tell them that they can opt for having their hand removed instead? Make sure you let them know that if they opt to live free with only one hand that they’ve “volunteered” to waive their constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

  12. Hi I would like to know is it legal for my parole officer to notify my job and my school that im on parole? Im not a sex offender nor do I have a violent crime. My parole officer going to my job could cause me to loose it I work with a big company that pays well I did inform them of my felony but not of me still being on parole I don’t feel its their business so do I have any rights in the state of Arizona

  13. I attended a Veterans Administration dual diagnosis program that did not allow clients to leave the site by themselves and required on-site AA meeting attendance. The did not offer separate meetings for those of other religions or those who are atheists. Clients or ex-clients ran these meetings and there were required prayers specifically from the Bible in addition to the Serenity prayer. If you did not stick to these prayers you would be verbally harassed about your different beliefs. I also had a casework tell me that I would get better if I believed in her God (she considered that I didn’t have any faith at all since I identified my self as a Pagan in my admission papers and the VA doesn’t recognize any Pagan religions in their computerized record keeping except in a specific case note if they consider it relevant for treatment). The only person who felt I had the right not to be subject to this was a therapist who had to butt heads with the rest of the staff so I didn’t have to have that caseworker proselytize to me, but I still had to attend the same meetings, I just didn’t have to say any of the prayers and they had to tell the clients and multiple clients to not harass me about having different beliefs.

  14. I have been mandated treatment and It is strongly based on the twelve step program admittedly and AA steps and god posters are on the walls i am also required AA meetings i frown upon religion it even offends me i respect others beliefs but i am constantly getting grieve about not having some spiritual or higher power and told without one i will drink again. i find this a direct violation of my rights as a human and citizen im happy to be recovering and improving but there are many quirky things involved. Ive found myself thinking the same as a prior post about the twelve steps being a replacement religion and an excuse to ignore life’s issues, they the counselor and AA people also encourage life long attendance aggressively.

  15. I can’t beleive all of the dumb posters on here that can’t figure out the legal trick to getting out of going to ordered meetings. If you can’t figure that out then you’re probably a bad enough drunk that you need to go to a few meetings or at least do some soul searching of some kind which is what the judge is trying to bring about. And I can’t beleive people are hiring lawyers to help them figure it out! A drunk is a lawyers best friend. The other thing I can’t beleive is what a bunch of cry babies the Millennials are. You’re the first generation to get on online forums and go “waaaay, I got sent to AA, my civil rights were violated!” How? ” I had to sit in a seat next to a Christian for an hour, and get a cup of coffe, and they had God written on the wall!” Well they used to just beat you up or put you in the country jail or an asylum where some dude would try to beat you up or worse rape your butt. AA is sure a more pleasant place than that, especially only an hour of it compared to 24/7 confinement. Just remember, though God is on the wall, there’s no requirment that you poor abused Millennials have to look at the wall.

    • Thanks for the post! I don’t consider myself “dumb”, but how exactly does one get out of having to attend court ordered meetings? Attend one online, then sign your own slip? Curious. Thanks..


      • AA is anonymous, therefore the courts or parole/probation officers can’t go verify that you actually attended a meeting because when they sign off on your attendance sheet they only use their version of “Bill W.”. So, after many torturous AA meetings that thought finally occurred to me and I just started having some friends put their “Bill W.” on my sheet. Worked like a charm.

      • Not to mention the fact that sentencing people to AA, whether as an alternative or not, amounts to a Government endorsement of the AA religion. The government is not supposed to endorse any religion.

  16. And yet soldiers are forced into treatment in 12 Step programs daily. They have no other option. Their insurance will ONLY cover 12 Step programs. If you want to pay out of pocket to go to a different treatment it’s not going to happen because it’s not DoD approved. Commanders favorite saying for substance abuse users “Complete the 12 Step or you are out!”

    Then again, soldiers don’t have any constitutional rights. They simply defend it for others.

    I’m not a soldier. Just a concerned person that sees this happening to soldiers daily.

  17. I personally had to go to AA during probation because of a DWI. I am not religious by any means, but I went anyway. We had to keep a journal of our progress and when I got to the portion about turning my life over to god I simply wrote that this was not possible as I personally do not believe in a higher power, but wrote something along the lines of seeking outlets that might help me make better choices such as friends and family. Probation officers could give a shit whether you believe in god or not, they are just doing there job… with that being said, I do think forcing someone to go to an establishment that prays during every meeting and talks about how god changed their lives is a violation of their rights. But until it is changed..

    side note: i only went to AA a few times and just wrote journal entries based on what the AA book says for 18 months…. so, you can get around it if its that big of a deal to you personally….

  18. I am a homeless veteran who does not have a problem with alcohol. However a veteran service called alpha omega is forcing me to attend AA. Rumor has it these people are getting paid more by the VA for my forced attendance. Help me!

  19. I am being forced to go to daily AA meetings by the officer in charge of my house arrest program. I have been told that if I do not attend these meetings, I will be back behind bars. Insofar as AA is a religious organization, is it not a direct violation of my civil rights??

    • reese – yes. fight it. Tell them you want to go to SMART reCOVeRY OR SOS OR MODERATION .ORG THEY ARE ALL approved by the courts for years. AT least in LA. I know SOS and Smart are approved Nationally.

  20. I’m on probation and attending treatment in Washington State. How they get around this whole issue here is that you have to follow the recommendations of your treatment center, which include “X” amount of 12 step”SELF HELP” meetings per week. There are a whole gamut of these, and any one of them qualify. I can go to Over Eaters Anonymous if I so choose, although it wouldn’t do me (personally) much good. I’m going to start a “I Hate Miley Cyrus Anonymous” meeting, open and close the meeting myself, sign my own slip, and the treatment center can kiss my ass. 🙂

  21. Hey, if it’s really an issue…just show up late, get your [expletive deleted by editor] slip signed and then leave. Works every time.

  22. I am reading all your posts and I am so disturbed by all this AA court coercion that is already been fought for you in 25 states. They can not do it, but most people are not aware of their rights. I have been making a Documentary Film about predatory behavior in AA. But over the past few months I have been contacted by Pilots and Doctors who are being FORCED to attend AA or else!!!. It seems these two groups have been taken over by sober AA members and things are very deeply entrenched and corrupt.

    I have decoded to make this a segment in my film The 13th Step the film. If any of you are interested in speaking to me please contact me at

    I think we have to expose this at a very high level. It has to change,.its so very wrong at so many levels as you all know here. Thanks ….

  23. I have been in AA over 34 years. I do not agree with court order requirement to AA meetings.. The government is involved in the program, and has no business doing so. I am grateful for our traditions. I wish more people would read them, as they would not be saying we are religious group. I would not attend if the program was a religion or a cult.. I could quote page after page showing someone how we are a religion or cult, but someone would just try to dispute my debate.. As, if you do not like AA you will find something wrong.. The reason AA is not liked is because allot people were court ordered to attend. But for the AA program, we can not as a whole speak out for ourselves, as that is one of our traditions.. Just wish more people knew their facts..

    • Pam: AA is based on a religious cult from the 1930’s known as Buchmanism, or The Oxford Group, or Moral Rearmament. Since it is based on a religious cult explain how it isn’t a religious cult itself? At what point did it magically become “spiritual, not religious”? There are many other indications that it is religious. AA could solve the whole problem of mandatory or coerced attendance if they refused to accept anyone who did not voluntarily attend. A simple solution – yet they won’t do that. WHY? You need to educate yourself, do some research. It is difficult after spending 34 years believing something, but why choose to remain ignorant? Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence showing that AA or any other 12 step program is effective in stopping people from doing anything. There are indications that such programs cause more harm than good. The courts have no business forcing anyone to attend any type of religious meetings. This is a constitutional issue and needs to be corrected.

    • The idea that people who do not like AA are simply trying to find something wrong with the program when they dispute the “spiritual not religious” claim is patently false. At some point, I decided to engage an exercise in examining AA’s claims that it spiritual, not religious. I decided to approach AA’s claim from the point-of-view of accepting the claim as true and investigating just what such a claim could possibly true of. I investigated every definition of the word spiritual available in the dictionary and came up with only one that could fit AA’s claim. I then investigated that claim in relation to the Higher Power they claim you can have instead of God. By the time I was done, even if you ignore AA’s clear religious roots, and try to ignore their use of the word God, AA’s claims roundly fail on Step 3 of the 12-steps. My examination is here in very rough draft:

  24. I have one month left until my probation expires and this Thursday I have a court date for failing to attend self help group meetings, I have not been in any other trouble, have not done anything wrong.. I just didnt turn in AA slips for a period of time. Now I have the previously mentioned show cause hearing to deal with and with it a possible 10 month suspended sentence. I chose not to go because I would leave the meetings feeling like I needed a drink worse than before I went. I have been on probation for 35 of 36 months without any issues. So if you think for a second the courts or probation can’t nail you for it, I think you are wrong.. Or at least mistaken. I will let you know how it goes either Thursday night or however long I am incarcerated for only “failure to attend self help groups”

  25. I too am being forced by Texas to attend AA meetings 2x a week. I know the Federal probation folks no longer can require mandatory attendance, yet Texas does, and then hold their AA meetings inhouse to ensure you attend. Nothing against faith/spiritual based programs, but being Jewish, I have some serious concerns about the faith based tenets of AA and the “Lord’s Prayer” they close with. If this is not a violation of my First Amendment right to Freedom of Religion, I don’t know what is. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts. You know Texas is so far behind the curve when it comes to freedom and Constitutional rights and diversity….But incarceration for failing to attend what amounts to “church” is just WRONG!

  26. Is this just for N/A and A/A that is law is for or is it for any religious based program and parolee would have to take?

  27. The article was short but to the point. Thanks for pointing it out. I hope the government is forced to stop making attendance a requirement. There are alot of people who still think AA is the only way to recover from addiction, and a lot of courts will still mandate attendance. I had a couple of DUI’s and had to attend AA. In fact, I have to attend AA, for years probably, (retch) in order to have a shot at getting my license restriction lifted. As a non-religious attendee, being told it wasn’t religious and then having to do the touchy-feely holding hands and reciting the lord’s prayer thing at the end was uncomfortable, to say the least. I don’t want to hold your hand dude. It’s hypocritical. It’s laced, repetitively, with religious mumbo-jumbo, despite the whole ‘as you understand him’ cop-out. It is an effective way to mask the overt Christian rhetoric and make the claim that it’s not religious- you can decide what your God is! Yeah. Say ‘no’ when they tell you to hold hands. Observe the rage. Heh. Besides the religious structure, AA is wrong on a fundamental level. The rational recovery program points it out clearly. AA is a mind-control, identity-change organization; ie- a cult. It may work for some, more power to them, but it didn’t work for me. I saw it for what it was. I managed to recover without it. Despite it, even. For other fun violations of constitutional rights, check out driver’s responsibility and ignition interlock laws, if you haven’t already.

  28. To be fair, when quoting the 12 Steps of AA, it would have been helpful if the author had included the sentence that leads into the 12 Steps as well:

    “Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:”

    Please note the word “suggested”.

    AA is a spiritual program that welcomes all, including atheists, and there is no mandatory participation required in anything written or said.

    The literature says to use the AA group as your “Higher Power”.

    Alcoholism is not an addiction, but a disease, as declared so by the A.M.A. several decades ago. There is no known cure for the disease of alcoholism…

    There is a brief chapter in the back of the book Alcoholics Anonymous called “Spiritual Experience” that explains much of what is being written about here. It finishes with a quote by Herbert Spencer, which ends with: “…that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

    By the way, don’t be surprised if you are in a treatment center and an AA meeting is brought in from the outside, or if near the end of your treatment you are taken outside the facility to an AA meeting…

    Good luck to all.

  29. Hi everyone i just wanted to chime in with my current situation and see if anyone can help me out.
    I was charged with a DUI back in march of 2014
    Im not an alcoholic nor have i ever been one. Im 25 years old and was out for the weekend of st. Patty’s day, its actually pretty comical because we had a designated driver all night. I was charged with a DUI because my girlfriend (who was out all night drinking with us)
    Was fighting with her mom over the phone about stupid shit and Decided to get in her car when she got home and took off to go see her mom.
    So naturally I’m drunk and not thinking clearly and i hop in my truck with the intension to catch up to her and talk some sense into her since she was so worked up and in no condition to drive.
    Long story short i didn’t make it 15 feet and got stuck in the neighbors yard lol.
    Then i puked on myself and feel asleep.
    Woke up to a cops flash light in my eye and you can figure out the rest.
    Anyway, I’m in Pa so i went through there ARD program so the DUI would not be on my record. I Did all my dumb ass alcohol and safety classes and was put on probation for 6 months. Then my PO tells me i gotta get a drug and alcohol evaluation within the 6 months I’m on probation.
    So like the procrastinator I am I waited until the last fucking month to go get my evaluation because i knew it was gonna be some bullshit where they kept eyeing me up like im some raging alcoholic and i was pretty much on point with my hypothesis.
    I am now required to attend 6 group and 6 AA meetings back to back two hours total every tuesday and i couldn’t be more pissed about it.
    Im currently working 40+ hours a week and i just feel like this is the biggest waist of time and money. My time means alot to me, if im not at work my time is invested into other various hobbies and small businesses ventures of mine.

    Is there anything i can do to get this sentence shorter?

    Should i maybe go get a second opinion?

    Should i have not even have mentioned i was there for a DUI? Would my PO have ever even found out?

    I don’t know, i know i probably sound like im just bitching but i just don’t see the point.
    Im honesty doing very well for myself at this point in time and i have put this DUI behind me in the “learn from this mistake” section of my Brian.
    I honestly feel like all this shit is gonna do is bring up the past. Oh and I’m also pretty anti social lol so im sure that ain’t gonna mix well.

  30. If AA is working for you, great. However, everyone is entitled to make up their own opinion but not their owen facts. As someone who was coerced into what seems to me like a religious cult after seeking help from my employers assistance program I agree 100% with the verdict.
    Fact: AA is a virtual clone of The Oxford Group, the puritanical Christian organization it originated from. The Big Book mentions God or “Him” well over 200 times. It very specifically refer to God as a singular entity who will perform one specific miracle if you pray for it: keep you sober for 24 hours. By the reasoning of the steppers, as long as you change “God” to “Good Orderly Direction” you could claim that even the Bible isn’t a religious text. Despite the fact that AA welcomes agnostics and atheists it does without a doubt meet the qualifications for a religion. Courts say so, and most reasonable people would agree. AA and the Baptist church may or may not be fine organizations, but that is for each individual to decide. Since we are a nation of rights, the First Amendmentand the Establishment Clause prohibits the government from coercing anyone to attend what the courts have determined is a religious organization.
    Fact: 70% of all people who successfully recover from substance dependence (the medical term for AA’s “alcoholism” do so without AA. 10 years after doing so many drink normally with no ill effects.
    Fact: AA based treatment has an very low success rate and causes a dramatic increase in binge drinking and mortality). AA found that out when Dr Vaillant (AA medical advisor) conducted the SHARP study in the early 80’s. The study is available on the Internet (but not on any AA website. How’s that for “openness and honesty”?) for anyone who is interested in actual facts instead of just discussing opinions. Despite the “it worked 100% for me and that is all the statistics I need” mindset of many AA’ers, it is likely that 12 step treatment does far more damage than it does good.

  31. How come, in the 12-Step religious AA/NA cults, the God of MY UNDERSTANDING is not allowed to 100% CURE ME of my addiction?

  32. Pingback: Anonymous
  33. AA/NA or a 12Step program twice a month. In addition I have it in writing that one of those meetings can be church.

    Ill be looking for a lawyer soon.

  34. Fact: AA based treatment has an very low success rate and causes a dramatic increase in binge drinking and mortality). AA found that out when Dr Vaillant (AA medical advisor) conducted the SHARP study in the early 80’s. The Sneakersokken study is available on the Internet (but not on any AA website. How’s that for “openness and honesty”?) for anyone who is interested in actual facts instead of just discussing opinions. Despite the “it worked 100% for me and that is all the statistics I need” mindset of many AA’ers, it is likely that 12 step treatment does far more damage than it does good.

  35. This is an interesting discussion. I know of one particular county where drug court offenders are required to attend AA, but prohibited from attending NA. It sounds like a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause to me. Of course I would need to thoroughly brief the issue before making that a final conclusion.

    As a member of a 12 step fellowship myself, (I am what most people would consider atheist) I think the 12 step fellowship has absolutely every characteristic of other traditional established religion. For example: 1. Although the higher power is purely personal, the program is based on “spiritual principles” such as faith, hope, honesty, forgiveness, etc.
    2. Regular group attendance on a weekly basis (or more) is suggested, but not mandatory.
    3. The principles to follow are outlined in text.
    4. Each member is encouraged to select a sponsor, which is somewhat of a spiritual advisor.
    5. People belive that the program has some power over their life.
    6. Meeting places are often in churches of varying denominations.
    7. Personal prayer and meditation are encouraged.
    8. Selfless principles guide members to a better way of life.
    9. They are now established worldwide.

    Sounds a lot like religion to me.

  36. It’s good to read so many lively and passionate comments about AA/NA. What’s funny about this topic is that of all the people I drank with or used drugs with none of us went to Church on Sundays. I too am ordered by the court to attend these meetings. With the exception of a few, I find the majority of people at the meetings are there because they too are ordered by the court to do so. When it comes to the steps I can see the value of steps 4, 8, 9, and 10. I can see the need to take a good look at myself and make some much needed changes in the way I think. But when it comes to those who are seriously and tragically addicted to mood and mind altering substances there’s a need for help that AA/NA can’t provide. So if you’re not someone who can tune into that big guy in the sky you’ll probably feel uncomfortable at meetings. As far as the Judges or the Probation Officers violating our 1st amendment rights by ordering us to go to these meetings. I guess they have to make it look like they’re doing something in the war on drugs.

  37. 22 yr aa member and lawyer. aa is for those who want it, not those who need it. Court ordered clearly unconstitutional, waste of time for the offender and pain in the ass for aa. Contrary to the position taken by institutional aa, I believe signing court cards involves us in outside issues and violates our traditions and core values–Come or not YOUR choice. Want what we have? Fine. Don’t? Equally fine. We don’t push anything on anybody.

  38. Don’t get arrested while drunk people, or the court will throw you to the wolves, to be gang banged by AA degenerates.

    This temperance nation, with it’s dated prohibition blue laws, caste any drinking crimes into the category of mental illness. The courts, the treatment centers, therapists, and recovery groups …all benefit from this disease model of addiction….don’t internalize this model. Insurance companies pay out big bucks to ‘treat’ this so called disease. Trust your gut, don’t allow them to pressure you into accepting negative views of yourself. Fight them by being positive, feeling good, and smiling. You can actually counter them by talking about God. Once they realize that you are pro God…it takes the wind out of their sails.

    Say this every day…’I’m in perfect health and wellness’ ‘I am powerful and highly organized’ ‘I am fully responsible for the life I lead”…feel how your body and mind respond to these statements. Counter act 12 step coercion. The destiny of your life is at stake. I recommend not sharing too much at the meetings. Keep from sharing personal details. The meetings are full of gossipers. Finish your court ordered treatment, and never go back. Don’t explain yourself to anyone. Avoid cops, judges, therapists, and AA people….they are not your friends. Also, avoid bartenders, cocktail waitresses and drug dealers. Drive the speed limit, always. And stay paranoid. The court is your enemy.

    Live your life to the fullest. Independence is freedom. Learn to be happy, alone with yourself.
    Success is the best revenge. Talk less about it though.
    Moderation is wisdom, abstinence is spiritual exercise, and once in while you’ll get shitty…and you’ll feel the old toxic shame…relax…reset…it’s not that bad !!! You survived. Just don’t get busted! It’s like a game. Play it well.

    Embrace adult responsibility…walk it and talk it….and no one can fuck with you. Create boundaries and communicate them with everyone in your life. Don’t let people disrespect you, that is part of self love.

    Remember….AA members are not your friends! they are part of the criminal justice system. So lay low, and move on.

  39. I think what non-12 steppers don’t realize is that AA is really a fraternal organization. It’s really hard for alcoholics to keep jobs so other alcoholics help you with jobs or financial assistance. It’s just that some people are introverts and cannot adjust to group therapy. This is why single person therapy might be the best option for introverts but that cost dinero. If I pray to god to help me financially then why is it bad for a fellow addict to help you. My problem is that I am not an addict yet I need a support group that doesn’t impose addiction labels. Get over it folks, 12 step dogma needs to be modernized for those who are sick and not addicts. Just like religions get reformed, so should AA…or better yet 12 step dogma. I’ve been wanting to join Underearners Anonymous but they use the AA Big Book instead of a UA book…therefore I wont attend. I have a TBI issue not an addiction problem. Good effort though. We are getting close to a better Anonymous program but their anal acceptance that we are all alcohol addicts is bogus…I’m living proof.

  40. Well, sometimes it is ok to be wrong. Our Judge who established drug Court is in fact a Christian who gives the “convicted” a choice. Go to jail or go to AA, or go to some secular program. Your choice. Jail will get you about a 9% effectiveness rate (9% still sober after 5 years), and a secular program will get you about a 7% sober rate after 5 years and going to AA will get you about a 75% effectiveness rate, that is sober after 5 years…again…take your pick. That approach is not mandatory AA attendance in nay way, the “convicted” have a choice. So much for your ideas of the 1st admendance and that judges don’t know what they are doing. Maybe a whole lot of judgas don’t, but the ones who have looked at the facts, have a real winner in DRUG COURT. Cost the county next to nothing either, since jail and secular programs are very expensive and AA is FREE. So…………….spread the word. Good Luck.

  41. As a human service practitioner and clinician I believe you have to offer treatment in a culturally sensitive way. The client has to buy in to the treatment process if you offend they’re deeply held beliefs that becomes an impediment for recovery. We need secular alternatives that are scientifically and empirical validated as effective treatments models. 12 step models that use religion have not been scientifically validated as effective by the current peer-reviewed literature. We need to offer real treatments that’s evidence-based.

  42. Forced attendance violates the programs traditions as well. No one should ever be forced to attend.

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