Spirituality versus Legalism in A.A.”©       
by Charlie Bishop, Jr.
           For over 70 years, Alcoholics Anonymous has
enjoyed a sterling reputation. Its fellowship is viewed as
the gold standard among the worldwide community of 
Twelve Step groups.  As is true of any living reality, A.A.’s
early experiences led to the formulation of its
Traditions, the Tenth of which reads:   “Alcoholics
Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the
A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.” 
That spiritual Tradition, which is enshrined also in its First
Legacy of Unity, has preserved Alcoholics Anonymous
from public disputes over religious, legal, political,
economic or treatment issues involving alcoholism.
Since its first 1939 publication, the book Alcoholics
Anonymous: the Story of How Many Thousands of Men
and Women have Recovered from Alcoholism has served
as the virtual Bible of the A.A. fellowship, with over 21
million copies in some 40 languages sold to members
currently numbering over two million in over 100
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.,  (A.A.W.S.) a
corporation and service committee, publishes and
annually sells about a million copies of the A.A. book,
affectionately nicknamed "the Big Book."  The same
corporate service entity also sells over 100 other books,
pamphlets, tapes, films, CDs and other materials.  Those
sales brought in $11.6 million in 2005.  Also according to a
report made to the delegates at A.A.'s 2005 General
Service Conference (GSC), a sister corporation and
service committee, the AA Grapevine, Inc., realized income
of about $2. million in 2005 sales of its monthly magazine
and other works. 
Although Alcoholics Anonymous is “fully self-
supporting” as mandated by its Seventh Tradition, A.A.
group contributions, coming from only about 45 % of U.S.
and Canadian groups, provide less than 50% of the funds
needed to support the fellowship’s various service
committees and corporations headquartered in New York  
City.   Because Alcoholics Anonymous declines “outside
contributions,” the balance of the funds necessary to
support these entities came from the profits from the
literature sales noted above.
Literature sales, then, are essential to the operation
of the Alcoholics Anonymous General Service Office and
its related corporations.  Because of this, it seems, in
recent years, the employees of Alcoholics Anonymous
World Services – the “trusted servants” of A.A. members
according to the fellowship’s Second Tradition – have
seen fit to initiate legal actions and threats in U.S.,
Mexican and German public civil and criminal courts of
law against A.A. members who have reprinted A.A.
literature whose copyrights have expired
To put the matter bluntly, the “trusted servants” of
A.A. members have sued A.A. members for their attempts
to carry the A.A. message to alcoholics who still suffer
from the alcoholic affliction!
Although admittedly a painful exercise, what follows
will attempt – out of love and respect for the A.A.
fellowship, its program and Traditions and Legacies – to
explore these happenings in an attempt to inform A.A.
members of what is being done to other A.A. members in
their name.
Don’t bug me,
I’m reading !