Judicial mandates for AA meetings violate the First Amendment – Alternatives to AA are few and far between
Many of my clients are not Christian, nor am I. Decades ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled against prayer in public schools as violating the First Amendment. Before then, such clearly Christian prayers as the Lord’s Prayer were commonplace to start the day in public schools across the nation.
Judges need to know that Alcoholics Anonymous (which seems to work more for some than for others) appeals to a higher power (which seems to focus on a deity) and that a large number of their meetings conclude with holding hands and saying the Lord’s Prayer. AA gatherings apparently give the option to opt out of the praying and hand holding, but how many AA meeting attendees will opt out rather than go along to try to get along?
Consequently, judges need to know that ordering AA meetings as part of probation violates the First Amendment, and AA analogues are few and far between. Moreover, even if a judge does not order AA meetings, the alcohol education program s/he orders for probation might require AA meetings. Criminal defense lawyers can ask judges to order self-help meetings rather than AA meetings, and to direct that AA meetings, versus self-help meetings, will not be required for alcohol education programs.
Agnostic and non-spiritual AA meeting analogues are far less plentiful than AA meetings, but they exist. Here are options:
– Smart Recovery is a newer program that presents itself both as non-religious and as including the option to join meetings by phone and to have those meetings documented.