No More Attendance Sheets In AA

By Anonymous 09/20/18

Having court-ordered people at our meetings is like being, “a little bit pregnant.” We are either anonymous or we are not anonymous.

a person signing a paper

Our Traditions are important to Alcoholics Anonymous. We also want to see AA continue to provide a way out for alcoholics.

The responsibility statement located on so many meeting walls says it all. AA is an all-inclusive organization, too. We offer aid to anyone who needs help in their drinking life. However, that comfort and aid are meant to be given in an anonymous way.

My question is, how anonymous is a court-ordered person who leaves our meetings with a signed attendance sheet? Surely everyone can remember hearing someone at an AA meeting state, “You can say that you were at this meeting but you cannot tell them I was here.”

What good is that statement when we then turn around and sign attendance sheets? Having court-ordered people at our meetings is something like being, “a little bit pregnant.” We are either anonymous or we are not anonymous. Let’s look at some of the results of our current practice.

In order to clear out overcrowded prisons, criminals have been released if they agree, in part, to getting attendance vouchers signed at AA meetings. One of those parolees killed an AA member in 2011 and a lawsuit against AA was filed.

We didn’t hear about that from the General Service Organization or their Public Information Coordinator, and that is where the legal papers were delivered.

Instead, the news broke at some later time on television. While the suit was eventually dismissed, that AA member surely would not have been murdered and that lawsuit filed if we did not sign attendance sheets.

Greg Hardy, a former NFL player banned from the league after being charged with beating his girlfriend, has been sentenced to three AA meetings per week rather than going to jail. Look at pages 155 and 156 of the Twelve and Twelve. It states that judges would gather derelicts from society and, “parole them into our custody. We’d spill AA into the dark regions of dope addiction and criminality.”

Look, too, at page 190 where it states that we are not to, “lend the AA name in either a direct or indirect manner to anyone.”

Our founders predicted back in the 1950s this very situation happening today.

The Second, Seventh and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal have all ruled that sending criminals to AA meetings is illegal. It’s in violation of the First Amendment. That public controversy would not have happened had we kept our meetings anonymous.

What if AA decided to stop signing attendance sheets? What could the courts do? Are they able to set up their own classes to teach lessons about alcoholism and addiction? Could the courts take their own attendance?

The Traditions allow AA members to go to those classes and talk about alcoholism. We could still offer aid and support to alcoholics without signing attendance sheets.

After the above-mentioned murder, the GSO has felt compelled to hand out the Safety Card for AA Groups statement to clean up this situation. They did so without fully explaining to the public the issues noted here. Perhaps this is the time to reevaluate things more closely.

Maybe this is an opportunity to gather the insight and courage to see if we are compromising our Traditions as well as our Alcoholics Anonymous name when signing attendance sheets.

The author is a member of AA and chooses to remain anonymous.

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