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

Is it Appropriate for a Meeting to Screen Newcomers?

The Question:
What about an Intergroup using a phone line rather than posting a meeting schedule of times and places to a website. This is done to avoid or deter predators and/or the media. Is this a form of “screening” and, thus a violation of Tradition 3?

This seems to be a clear violation of the 3rd Tradition, based on fear of the media and predators. The point is that we have seen many “predators” come into S.L.A.A. and recover. Media infiltration is extremely rare, and any group can vote to allow a member of the media in or not. The real result of “screening” or requiring someone to share part of their story in response to a question of “Why do you think you need this program?” is to discourage those awash in shame and secrecy to find recovery. Needless to say, there are a number of people who have entered, either with the intent of finding victims or pretending to be members in order to get a story, who have then admitted they really needed S.L.A.A. and became active, honest members later.

The other Traditions that are relevant, in my opinion, are Traditions 4 and 5. Tradition 4 allows any individual group or Intergroup to operate even in flagrant contradiction to the Traditions, if they choose to do so. As a Fellowship, we are responsible only to point out that the practice is not in the right spirit even if it is either labeled openly as screening or is any form of 12 Step work not characterized by the S.L.A.A. member sharing their own story, while requiring no disclosure from the prospective member,. Tradition 5 reinforces this idea by saying that “passing on this gift is our one aim” (Table of Contents, 12 & 12 of AA), and that this sobriety cannot be kept unless we give it away.

I see that there would probably be a violation of Tradition 4 if we were using the requirement that a potential member call an information number and be interviewed. Since the only requirement for membership is the desire to stop acting out, then there is no way that anyone can refuse us admission to a meeting. I have no right to question another’s motives for attending a meeting. The only requirement for S.L.A.A. membership is the desire to stop acting out in our addictive bottom line behavior. If someone feels that they need to be here; they do.
Tradition Four states that each group is autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or S.L.A.A. as a whole. How a group lets others know it exists and how to find it is completely at the discretion of a handful of members. It is completely understandable that this group would want to get some sobriety and experience before tackling these predators.

My idea is that this is a local meeting option and not dictated to or regulated by the Traditions or Intergroups. Tradition 1 talks about our common welfare. I do not think that this mandates every group meeting to cater to that which is most common and fail to meet the special needs of an uncommon minority. I feel that Tradition 4 gives each individual meeting and group the right to choose to meet the needs of a special uncommon minority. Tradition 1 forbids someone from being turned away, because someone else is judging them as not a member of S.L.A.A. Tradition 4 allows individual meetings to establish special attendance criteria for members of the fellowship and accept only those members of the Fellowship who meet the criteria. If a local community has a problem, such as only offering meetings with special focus and narrow admissions policies, these are local problems that can be solved by starting general meetings for all members of the Fellowship. The problem cannot be solved by legislation of worldwide policies. And we do not have S.L.A.A. police to enforce worldwide policies. We make suggestions.
Tradition 5 states that the primary purpose is to serve addicts who suffer. Tradition 4 gives the meeting or groups the autonomy to choose which suffering addict members of S.L.A.A. it wishes to serve. Tradition 5 prohibits a meeting or group from having a primary purpose other than carrying the message to suffering addicts. It does not specify which of the suffering addict members are primary above other suffering addict members of S.L.A.A. One meeting or group may wish to serve those members of S.L.A.A. who have uncommon safety issues. The primary purpose would still be carrying the message to a special unique portion of the addicts who still suffer. There would not be a primary purpose other than carrying the S.L.A.A. message to addicts who suffer.

I feel that any group can screen attendees to their group as long as they are not intended to exclude persons who wish to stop acting out. One’s sexual preferences should not be a criterion for exclusion. However, screening for the “simply curious” or media seems quite consistent with the need to maintain anonymity and provide safety for the unity of the group.

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