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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. * * *

[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."

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:
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