Here's the scoop. AA is a religion. All of these courts have ruled that Alcoholics Anonymous is a religion or engages in religious activities:
- the Federal 7th Circuit Court in Wisconsin, 1984.
- the Federal District Court for Southern New York, 1994.
- the New York Court of Appeals, 1996.
- the New York State Supreme Court, 1996.
- the U.S. Supreme Court, 1997.
- the Tennessee State Supreme Court.
- the Federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, 1996.
- the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
- the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh District, 1996.
- the Federal Appeals Court in Chicago, 1996.
- The Federal Appeals Court in Hawaii, September 7, 2007, in the Inouye v. Kemna case.(orange-papers.org/orange-spirrel.html)
Forcing me to go to AA under threat of legal sanctions and criminal prosecution is the same as forcing me to attend a state established religion, which AA seems to be trying to do with their "cooperating with courts and judges" policy, but that's another story for another day.
When I went to the arraignment, I requested and was given an indication of sentencing, meaning I asked the judge what my punishment would be if I pleaded guilty right there. It was as follows--$330 fine, 48 hours of community service and 1 year of court probation OR a total of 18 AA meetings, at 3 meetings a week with charges dropped upon proof of completion. If I decided to plead not guilty, I would see the judge and the D.A. in 6 more weeks at pre-trial conference. The judge also told me that by that time my police file would have been reviewed by both him and the D.A. and that that may not be such a good idea for me. Subtle threat, yeah? Hmm...let's see: $330 fine, 48 hours working on the loading dock at the Goodwill, 1 year of court probation and a police record, versus filling out an easily forged AA attendance slip. I took the AA slip. I signed it myself using made-up names, turned it in 6 weeks later, charge was dropped and I went on my merry way.
So what's the big deal? What's my beef? Is this really even an issue? I mean, c'mon, who wouldn't rather attend AA than the alternative I was given? The judge probably thinks he was doing a good thing, sending a drunkard to a "program that has saved the lives of millions". Or maybe he was just clearing the docket for more important matters, like real crimes, and punishing me by making my life slightly inconvenienced so that I think twice before doing it again. And, I didn't even go to the meetings.
But the point I'm trying to make is that AA, being a religion, should not even have been on the table. What should I have done? What would any of us have done? Act on principle and not take either option, or do like I did and simply take the expedient route and play ball with the court? Is it REALLY that important to stand on principle this time, create a big fuss, claim damages and go to the wall with it over a bullshit drunk in public charge, all because the judge wants to send me to AA for 18 hours?
This was one of those times where I realized I wasn't gonna win, no matter what I did. I didn't win, because my civil rights were violated, and I was cool with it. Sometimes you just gotta take the deal, because it makes life easier. But still...it makes me uneasy, how the force of law and the court were coercing me into something so, I don't know, a violation of Freedom of Religion?