Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (S.L.A.A.)

Fellowship-Wide Services (F.W.S.)

Can a Group Restrict Voting in a Business Meeting?

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The comments below were given by various members of the Conference Steps, Traditions, and Concepts Committee and do not represent a group conscience of the entire committee. The opinions expressed here are solely that of the person giving them. Take what you like and leave the rest.

The Question

We started an SLAA virtual meeting in another part of the world – and it is the only one meeting in SLAA to that uses the language of that region.  The group is fairly new (about 8 months) and the maximum number of attendees is 15 on good days.  A group conscience was taken (I wasn’t there), and it was decided that only members who worked their 7th Step are entitled to vote.

This means that the group decisions will be made by 2 or 3 (who worked their 7th step). I feel this is in violation of the Twelve Traditions. I would very much appreciate your feedback on this.

The Discussion

Response #1:

Was this vote to restrict the vote to the people who have worked their Seventh Step a vote of all the members of the meeting present or only members who had worked their Seventh Step?  (If only the 2-3 who have worked their Seventh Step, I have concerns that it was not a group conscience)

What is the logic of the Seventh Step? Why not the Third or the Ninth, or a 6 months of sobriety requirement?  (The Seventh Step: “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.” doesn’t seem magical).

I have seen some groups restrict the vote to people who regularly attend the meeting, to stop someone from recruiting ‘ringers” support of a particular motion they favor. 

The thing is the Fourth Tradition says each group should be responsible to it’s group conscience.  (In other words each group is free to make its own mistakes).

If the majority of the group doesn’t like the restrictions on the group conscience they are free to start a new group and the original group would only have the few members who support the Seventh Tradition rule. 

Remember the Traditions are only guidelines, they are not rules so I wouldn’t call what this meeting has done a “violation”, but I do think that restricting the definition of the voting members of the group for a group conscience is inconsistent with the spirit of the Traditions.

When I was first asked to be a delegate to the ABM and chaired a conference service committee, I was still working my Fourth Step.   So while I was trusted by my intergroup and members of the ABM to vote on items affecting the fellowship as a whole, I would not have been allowed to partake in a group conscience vote at the meeting you asked about.

Response #2:

I agree, voting shouldn’t be limited to members who worked certain steps, unless there is an election of service positions that requires working up to Step Seven in this case, and the requirements are in the meeting format.   It is a violation of Traditions.

Response #3:

Tradition Four guides us to acknowledge that each group is autonomous. That means that a group has the right to be wrong, to make mistakes, to do things that are irrational. A group can do things that are contrary to the spirit of our Steps, Traditions, and Concepts. 

We do not govern. Personally, I find a rule to limit voting to be unprincipled, but the group can do as they wish. 

I highly encourage a study of the Twelve Concepts.  Concept Twelve in part says that we “will always remain democratic in thought and action.” In my opinion limiting voting based on recovery progress (or anything else for that matter) is undemocratic.

Response #4:

Tradition Four states that each group is autonomous unless it would affect another group or S.L.A.A. as a whole.  Since this decision would not seem to affect any other groups, it is in keeping with this Tradition to make that decision.

However, Tradition Two indicates that our that our leaders are but trusted servants, and should not govern.  By limiting decision making to only certain members who have worked through Step Seven, it would seem that those few members would be governing the ones who had not worked them yet.  That would appear to be in conflict with this Tradition.

Concept Twelve provides sound guidance as well.  Warranty C specifies that no member be placed in unqualified authority over others.  Warranty D indicates that important decisions be made, whenever possible, by substantial unanimity.  And, Warranty F states that we should remain democratic in thought and action.  This decision to exclude certain members from having a vote does not seem to align with the Warranties.

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The CSTCC is a group of volunteers, some of whom were ABM delegates, and others who volunteered out of interest. We do not represent a group conscience of S.L.A.A., but are committed to bringing thoughtful discussion and study of 12 Step Fellowship literature and experience to the questions that are brought to us. We offer this summary as the results of our discussions. We present the major points of concern in the hopes that wider discussion in the Fellowship will help us evolve our customs and practice of the S.L.A.A. program of recovery to better represent the loving guidance of a Higher Power. Always, we affirm the autonomy of each group and the need for each individual to follow her/his own conscience. No decision of this group, or any other, is ever forced upon another, even when we believe a practice is clearly in conflict with the Steps, Traditions, or Concepts.