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

Can S.L.A.A. Meetings Require Donations or Fees to Attend?

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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

Can our Meetings – which are online – require the attendees from all over the world to subscribe to the F.W.S. Lifesaver Program, for a minimum of $5 a month, as a condition to attend the Meeting, unless the Member asks for a waiver of the fees due to special circumstances?

Secondly, can our online Meetings charge members to attend in the same way our Intergroup raises funds by charging to attend a Retreat or other Events?

The Discussion

Response #1:

My first response was to go to one of the core documents The SLAA Preamble:

The only qualification for S.L.A.A. membership is a desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. S.L.A.A. is supported entirely through the contributions of its membership and is free to all who need it.

This would be allowed under Tradition Four: Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or S.L.A.A. as a whole. In other words, each meeting is free to make their own mistakes.

As a practical matter, I would wonder how a group would verify the monthly Lifesaver contribution.

Also, as my addiction involved paying for sex, there was a time that I was not allowed out of the house with cash. Even to go to meetings. So, I would have had to forgo meetings that required dues. In my opinion that goes against our primary purpose as stated in Tradition Five: Each group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the sex and love addict who still suffers. If you ban members you are not carrying the message.

Response #2:

To answer both questions in one response, I would say, that we can’t “require” or “charge” members, or “attendees” as a “condition to attend the meeting”. If we do, Traditions Three and Five will be violated.

Intergroup “other events”, workshops, for instance, ask for voluntary donations with acknowledgment that no one will be turned away for the lack of funds. Retreats, like Annual Spiritual S.L.A.A. Retreat in Malibu involve expenses for shelter, food, etc.

In accordance with Traditions:
Tradition Three: The only requirement for SLAA membership is the desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction.
Tradition Five: Each group has but one primary purpose- to carry its message to the sex and love addict who still suffers.

Response #3:

Meetings can do whatever they want. S.L.A.A. meetings are autonomous and S.L.A.A. leaders do not govern. No one in S.L.A.A. can tell meetings what to do or how to conduct their recovery. No one can expel meetings or mete out any punishment. If your meeting wishes you could require $100 per member per meeting and spend it all on pizza. Or $1000 and buy a new car.

Your meetings might benefit from a reading of Traditions Two, Three, Four, Five, Seven and of all of the Twelve Concepts, especially the Warranties in Concept Twelve.

When someone tells me I am in “violation” of a tradition I chuckle at their hubris and hypocrisy. My Higher Power is my guidance. I review if I’m being faithful to spiritual principles or if I’m rationalizing unhealthy behaviors. I check with trusted friends. I like to quote a favorite speaker on the Traditions:

The Traditions are not rules or commandments or laws or regulations. They are “points of light that can guide us out of the darkness.” Like the Steps they are suggestions and like the Steps, if we fail to conform to them, our disease — our obsessive-compulsive addiction — will return to disrupt any peace, joy, and serenity we have found by practicing the program.

Your meeting is not “violating” any Tradition, but I personally think any meeting, online or in person, that requires payment is failing to live up to its spiritual principles. I would not attend and I suspect the meeting would eventually fail. Meetings are like self-cleaning ovens. It may take some time, but when a meeting operates outside of the spirit of the Traditions and Concepts, self-cleaning will kick in and that meeting will eventually disappear.

So, yes, you can require your members to do things, you can charge them to attend your meeting. No one can tell you not to. You do not have to answer to S.L.A.A., but you do have to answer to yourself and your Higher Power. Are you being consistent with the will of your HP? Are you being consistent with your spiritual principles? Are you behaving soberly?

Response #4:

Tradition Four tells us that each meeting is autonomous, unless a chosen action affects other meetings or the Fellowship as a whole. It seems unlikely that requiring a mandatory minimum donation would affect other groups or the Fellowship as a whole, so including it as a condition of attendance would appear to be in keeping with this Tradition.

However, Tradition Three states that the only requirement for membership in the program is a desire to stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction. Installing a mandatory minimum donation to attend would be an additional requirement. That additional requirement does not seem to be in keeping with this Tradition.

Tradition Five reflects that each group has but one primary purpose – to help the addict who still suffers. Turning someone away from a meeting for an unwillingness to pay the mandatory donation would seem to be in conflict with this primary purpose.

It is noted in the Question that there could be a waiver of payment on the mandatory minimum donation for special circumstances. This implies that the meeting members will get to choose which circumstances are valid for the waiver. There could be many reasons why an individual would not want to make the mandatory minimum donation. These could include a current lack of funds, making donations directly to the local intergroup / FWS, or a philosophical resistance to being told what donation they must provide. Approval of some requests for waiver, while denying others, could potentially be seen as arbitrary and capricious.

Concept Twelve provides guidance in this instance. Twelve suggests that we observe the spirit of S.L.A.A. Tradition, and provides 6 warranties to assist with that. Warranty C recommends that we place none of our members in unqualified authority over others. Warranty E recommends that our actions never be personally punitive nor an incitement to public controversy. Making the subjective choice as to which requests for waiver are valid, while deciding others not, would seem to be in conflict with this Concept.

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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.

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