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Court Rejects Prisoner’s Claims That AA Meetings Are Religious

May 19, 1995

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ A convicted drug dealer will still have to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in prison despite his claim that he was having religion forced on him.

David Griffin, a self-described atheist, had sought to be excused from the meetings, which were part of the substance abuse treatment program he was required to attend at Shawangunk state prison, 75 miles south of here.

The Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that although AA often uses the word ``God″ in its self-help publications, the group is ``not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution.″

AA’s publications also say that spiritual, not religious, references are used to signify a power greater than the recovering alcoholic.

Griffin, serving 25 years to life for dealing drugs and promoting prostitution, has since been transferred from the prison in Wallkill to nearby Eastern state prison in Napanoch.

He still refuses to attend AA meetings and so is allowed only limited privileges, prisons spokesman James Flateau said.

Griffin’s attorney, Robert Isseks, said he would try to take the case to a higher court.

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