Is non-conference approved literature banned from AA meetings?

Some in the rooms of AA think that nothing can be read aloud at a meeting unless it is “conference approved”. Is that true? And what does “conference approved” mean anyway?

“Conference approved” literature and audiovisual material is that published by AA World Services, Inc, and has been approved by the Conference for this purpose. “The term has no relation to material not published by GSO. It does not imply Conference disapproval of other material about AA. A great deal of literature helpful to alcoholics is published by others, and A.A. does not try to tell any individual member what he or she may or may not read.” (Service Material from the General Service Office).

One reason a group might limit the sources read at its meetings is because a group conscience has decided to limit them (eg, Conference approved literature only). However, there is no AA Tradition or guidance from the General Service Office to ban other literature.

What is the “Conference” and what does it approve? Each year a General Service Conference is held in New York, and it handles business which includes, among many other items, new material and revisions of already published items. These “approved” items are sold or given away by the AA General Service Offices. Obviously, it can’t review all other publications in the world; it doesn’t ban anything.

“In AA we are supposed to be bound together in the kinship of a universal suffering. Therefore the full liberty to practice any creed or principle or therapy should be a first consideration. Hence let us not pressure anyone with individual or even collective views. Let us instead accord to each other the respect that is due to every human being as he tries to make his way towards the light. Let us always try to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Let us remember that each alcoholic among us is a member of AA, so long as he or she so declares.” (Bill W., from his speech to the General Service Conference held in New York City in April, 1965.)

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