Cognition & Reality

Thursday, 5 May 2011

AA & The Establishment Clause

Filed under: Justice System,Propaganda — drtone @ 3:47 pm

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…

Alcoholics Anonymous has become such an accepted part of American culture that it has become, among other things, an integral part of the justice system. When someone comes before a court for an infraction or as part of a civil action, and one of the issues at hand is the use of intoxicants, it has become SOP to order the person to attend AA meetings. For example, I met a young man recently who regained the right to drive after a DUI conviction by, among other things, attending seven AA meetings. Judges do this in spite of AA’s existence as a separate volunteer organization without, as far as I know, a legal designation in the laws regarding drunk driving or in any other laws. Furthermore, judges order individuals into AA in spite its being a religious organization with a credo that makes specific reference to belief in God.

The so-called “establishment clause” of the US Constitution is the foundation of the separation of church and state that we enjoy as Americans. Nevertheless, AA has been established as the “go-to” outfit for the justice system when it comes to dealing with the use of alcohol (and other drugs). I doubt that I am the first person to raise this issue, but it is baffling and irritating.

AA manages to evade being called a religion through various qualifications and circumlocutions. For example, it refers to a Higher Power in its main pitch, and it places dependence on “God, as we understand Him.” It should be obvious, if only because AA indicates belief in a male deity, and refers to that deity with capitalized nouns and pronouns, that we are dealing with a religion in the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is a religion that has been melded with the forces of the state.

How can that continue to be? Arguments about the good that can come from AA membership have no weight in this domain. Good can come from membership in a variety of religious organizations, but courts do not force miscreants into Krishna Consciousness or the Catholic Church, or even into, say, Transcendental Meditation. It is only when it comes to AA that prohibitions we otherwise take for granted do not apply. I would suggest that this is in part because of the number of politicians and other powerful persons who are AA members, and because of the cowardice of many who are not.

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1 Comment »

  1. I enjoyed reading this post. The boundaries between church and state are easily over-stepped when a judge can command someone to go to an AA meeting. Judges are not prescribing that people become involved in other religions. I suppose they don’t think that AA is a religion. In this case the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Their behavior is hypocritical. It’s nonsensical, but then a lot of things are, likea law that requires that rape victims be accountabe to government agencies. My only objection to this writing is that Transcendental Meditation is not a religion as it imples. TM is a an innocent technique for allowing the mind to go deep within itself to it’s source. The bunk around the TM movement might be religious, however. OTOH, no one’s forcing anyone to start any kind of meditation. Maybe it would be a better “punishment.” In addition to the absuridity of being court ordered to attend AA meetings, there’s no real evidence that AA is helping people to quit being alcoholics or drug addicts. There are other ways of dealing with alcoholism but you don’t hear about those. EVEN if it was helpful, that sort of thing is supposed to be voluntary by nature. “Convince a man against his will, he’s of the same opinion still.” I think MORE should be heard about involuntary attendance at AA meetings which can only create a rebellion against the thought of attending. If someone goes to AA who doesn’t want to be there, how can that be helping? The whole thing is upside down and backward. Furthermore, it’s wrong.

    Comment by annie wallack — Thursday, 5 May 2011 @ 5:16 pm | Reply


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