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Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Ind. Courts - More on "First Church of Cannabis could test RFRA" [Updated]
Updating this May 22nd ILB post, about a newly formed church's plans to test RFRA by using marijuana in its religious ceremony, the ILB pointed out that such an effort should not be a surprise, as the federal RFRA law was enacted as a response to a SCOTUS opinion upholding the firing of "two American Indians who worked as private drug rehab counselors [who] ingested peyote as part of religious ceremonies conducted by the Native American Church."
Yesterday John Tuohy of the Indianapolis Star reported that:
Emotions appeared sky high at the newly formed First Church of Cannabis, after the Internal Revenue Service granted it nonprofit status. * * *ILB: The ILB was surprised at the suggestion that the courts would place themselves in the role of judges of the authenticity of a religion ... One [tax] expert the ILB heard from yesterday said:
[The church's founder Bill] Levin plans his first official church service July 1 — the day RFRA becomes law — where his members will follow blessings by smoking marijuana in what he describes as a religous practice. But some legal experts doubt such an illegal act would be exempted from prosecution by the religious protections offered by RFRA. * * *
Robert Katz, a law professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, said if Levin did go through with the ceremony and was prosecuted, he would need to prove to a judge that his church was a legitimate religion to get protection under RFRA.
That could be difficult, Katz said.
"One thing the court would look at is the history of the church," he said. "Churches with a long established history would be looked at more favorably."
Scientology won its fight with the IRS. Age, beliefs, etc., don't matter. The most relevant cases are on draft avoidance and conscientious objectors. . . Seeger, in particular.[Updated at 4:45 PM] On the other hand, there is this case, which may be right on point: US v. Meyers, 95 F. 3d 1475 - Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit 1996. It is mentioned in this May 29th article in the Daily Beast by Jay Michaelson:
One federal RFRA case, U.S. v. Myers, looked at five factors to determine whether a “Church of Marijuana” (founded in 1973) was authentically religious: ultimate ideas, metaphysical beliefs, a moral system, comprehensiveness of beliefs, and the ‘accoutrements of religion,’ such as important writings, a priesthood, etc.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 3, 2015 01:06 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts