Below is text from the New York Court of Appeals ruling on Griffin v. Coughlin on compulsory Alcoholics Anonymous attendance, found via AAAgnostica, a largely pro AA site.
A fair reading of the fundamental A.A. doctrinal writings discloses that their dominant theme is unequivocally religious.
Indeed the A.A. basic literature most reasonably would be characterized as reflecting the traditional elements common to most theistic religions. Thus God is named or referred to in five of the 12 steps. “Working” the 12 steps includes confessing to God the “nature of our wrongs” (Step 5), appealing to God “to remove our shortcomings” (Step 7) and seeking “through prayer and meditation” to make “contact” with God and achieve “knowledge of His will” (Step 11).
While A.A. literature declares an openness and tolerance for each participant’s personal vision of God “as we understood Him” (Steps 3 and 11), the writings demonstrably express an aspiration that each member of the movement will ultimately commit to a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being of independent higher reality than humankind.
All of the meetings ended with the Lord’s Prayer, which is a specifically Christian prayer. In addition, those attending the meetings were strongly encouraged to pray.
The foregoing demonstrates beyond peradventure that doctrinally and as actually practiced in the 12 step methodology, adherence to the A.A. fellowship entails engagement in religious activity and religious proselytization. Followers are urged to accept the existence of God as a Supreme Being, Creator, Father of Light and Spirit of the Universe. In “working” the 12 steps, participants become actively involved in seeking such a God through prayer, confessing wrongs and asking for removal of shortcomings. These expressions and practices constitute, as a matter of law, religious exercise.
Thus, while it is of course true that the primary objective of A.A. is to enable its adherents to achieve sobriety, its doctrine unmistakably urges that the path to staying sober and to becoming “happily and usefully whole,” is by wholeheartedly embracing traditional theistic belief.
My only point of contention is that I am less certain Alcoholics Anonymous has a primary objective of sobriety. Indeed, AA Tradition 5 tell us that “Each A.A. group has but one primary purpose — to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.” Sobriety is the bait, religious conversion leading to further recruitment is the goal. It says so right in the Traditions AA founder Bill Wilson wrote.