Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pennsylvania Court Rules AA Not "Religious"

Recently, a Pennsylvania appellate court ruled that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is not religious in its purpose a therefore could not claim protection under Religious Land Use laws (the reason the case was brought before the court is because residents of Abington Township wanted to prevent the meetings from occurring at a local building). This event is an excellent example of the increasingly blurred line of what is religious in what is secular in a modern society.

Alcoholics Anonymous Began as a spiritual organization—springing off an Episcopal church in New York. In addition its church roots, AA meetings still include prayer and seven out of its twelve covenant guidelines reference God. All things considered, AA seems to be just as much of a religious organization as my university life group. Nonetheless, the Pennsylvania court ruling on this case did not see things this way because the defendants could not prove that Glenside, the building used, is a house of worship or that the means are administered by a spiritual leader.

What makes this case interesting is the fact that had AA and Glenside been deemed religious in their purposes, they would have been protected under the law and would have been able to continue to house their meetings in the same location. Some would argue that the Religious Land Use laws should be unconstitutional given that the Establishment Clause calls for Congress to make no law respecting religion; however, these laws unquestionably do and in cases like these favor religious purposes.

This case shows that what is considered religious and what is not can be difficult to decipher in a society that has been, since its inception, entrenched in religious foundations and principles. Religion has found a way to play a crucial role in society by means other than just the church and in turn has found a permanent place in American politics.


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