AA not a religion, words spoken not confidential
"Judge bans statements made at AA meetings" (Vindicator, 8/2/01). Had U.S. District Judge Brieant researched the AA program, philosophy and its purpose, he would not have agreed with the 1999 federal appeals court ruling that declared AA as a "religion." The judge's ill informed decision set a criminal convicted of manslaughter free because he (the judge) considered statements made at AA meetings "anonymous and confidential."
His ridiculous ruling flies in the face of responsible citizenship. He ruled that "based on AA being a religion, disclosures of wrongs to fellow members should be protected by a privilege granted to other religions of similar situations." The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. What "religion" has that as its sole requirement?
The "anonymity" relates to protecting the fact that the member has a drinking problem and does not extend to vicious criminal behavior. To do so would be irresponsible, and it would border on societal apathy on the part of members of a "self help" organization.
AA has no trained authorized clergy in its organizational structure (though many of its members are cler gy men/women by profession. What "religion" has no clergy authorized to represent it?
Shall we now extend the confidentiality privilege to Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous and the Boy Scouts?
Setting a convicted criminal free based on the belief that his confession to AA members should have been privileged communication, is ludicrous. The client-lawyer, client-therapist, and client-clergy confidentiality does not extend to untrained, unofficial, non-clergy members of any religion or organization.
The fight to recover from addiction can only be hindered by potential feelings of guilt caused by confidentiality restrictions -- especially if the addict is forced to live with another's confession to manslaughter or murder.
To formally designate AA as a religion is to sign its death warrant. AA must fight to avoid being labeled a religion. Many problem drinkers would be reluctant to seek help from AA if it were a religion in the traditional sense of the word.
I recommend that confessions of a felony criminal nature be discussed with the member's clergy -- not to AA members.
North Benton, Ohio
X The writer is a former executive director of Mahoning County Alcoholism Programs.
Families should control teen drinking, not cops
We should teach children how to drink instead of making police do the work. That's the widely sensible idea proposed by Elizabeth Whelan in a recent Vindicator column. Teen-agers should "learn to regard moderate drinking as an enjoyable family activity," not as a funsy crime they fake-ID it for.
No-booze-under-21 laws simply lend drinking glitter and glamour, as well as breeding contempt for law in general. And it's ludicrous that 20-year-olds can legally drive a car, fly a plane, get drafted (as I was at 18) to go out and kill, even -- riskiest of all -- get married. But let 'em reach for a beer, and it's, "Slap on the handcuffs, Officer Dooley."
I deliberately mentioned "drive a car" and "kill" to address a popular misconception: that under-21s are all semi-insane, and a drop or two of alcohol turns them into demon-drivers. Just not true. Writer Mike A. Males, for one, in "Framing Youth," shows that "a 45-year-old is much more likely to maim or kill in a drunken-driving accident ... and drivers 21-44 are more dangerous than 16-20 year olds." Better reflexes with youth, I suppose.
But no joke, alcohol is heavy stuff, just like religion and sex. And it seems highly sensible that we should teach children about all three and get shut of silly, political nothing-under-21 laws.
Oh, by the way, in dear old Texas (naturally) 17-year-olds can now legally be executed. But of course, they can't legally have a drink before that final meal.