Tea Break


The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the federal government's appeal of a 10th Circuit decision protecting ritual use of ayahuasca, a psychedelic tea from South America. The U.S. branch of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal challenged the government's attempts to suppress its ayahuasca rituals under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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  1. Much as I appreciate the feds being called on their tyranny, I have a hard time with the whole “drugs are bad unless they’re part of some religious hoobajoob ritual” argument. From my viewpoint, granting special exemptions from laws based on religious rituals is tantamount to “respecting the establishment of religion”. Principly speaking, where do we draw the line? Why should drugs be allowed exemptions, but not, say, murder (“human sacrifice”)?

  2. Perhaps the concept of mutual consent and the absence of physical coercion might supply your answer, Evan?

  3. Is this a new version of the RFRA? I thought the Supremes struck it down in City of Boernes v. Flores.

  4. I thought the Supremes struck it down in City of Boernes v. Flores.

    True. It was rather quickly reborn at the state level, however. I guess that’s what is being referred to here.

    Probably bad news that this is headed back up to the Supremes, if precedent holds.

  5. Evan,
    I’m with you. Freedom should be inviolable for its own sake. Religious freedom is essential to a free society. However, citing religious freedom as a pretext to insulating certain (favored) groups from being held accountable to the same laws as others, is the antithesis of freedom. My desire to do drugs to get high should be enshrined with the same nobility as some true-believer’s desire to do drugs so he can talk to God.

  6. Perhaps the concept of mutual consent and the absence of physical coercion might supply your answer, Evan?

    Knowing how Evan has posted in the past, I would expect that he already supports the legalization of drug use whenever there is mutual consent and an absence of physical coercion. The question I believe he is raising is whether the Espiritas (?) should get preferential treatment compared to the rest of the population based on the recognition that the drug use is part of their religion. This is somewhat analogous to the question of whether some big corporation should get a special tax break, which one might oppose even if one wanted that tax break for everyone. I understand what Evan is saying and essentially agree that the legal argument is bogus. Still, I think I would find myself being happier knowing the Espiritas could peacefully do what they would like to than not, regardless of the validity of the legal reasoning. If accepting bad legal arguments were a slippery slope, we might as well dissolve the juidiciary by now….

  7. I think Evan’s last example (human sacrifice) was a little over-the-top, but I got his point.

    I’m not exactly happy with the notion that one can only use certain drugs if one subscribes to a certain religion. I do accept the notion that religious liberty should protect the ceremonial use of drugs (provided nobody is coerced into doing anything harmful to themselves, yadda yadda). I just think that individual liberty should also protect EVERYBODY ELSE’S use of drugs. But if I can’t get everything that I want, I’ll settle for at least part of it.

    Besides, every religious drug user allowed by law is one more example of a person using drugs responsibly without the involvement of the black market. Produce enough of these examples, and a few people might start asking the obvious questions. No, not everybody, but every additional supporter helps.

  8. ‘Drugs are illegal’ is like locks on your door. They only prevent those who respect that particular law– who generally are not burglars or drug users anyway.

    IMO the only argument to outlaw drugs is that they are somehow inherently wrong. I don’t see how this can be supported adequately, but some might think it true.

    Using law as this kind of tool to legislate *all* morality, not just crimes versus property or persons, is untenable in a diverse society like North America. Unfortunately many don’t see it this way, which means we have these kind of court cases to try to solve the disagreements.

  9. While I personally see things much like Evan, I would find it troubling if the Supreme Court rules against this church.

    It sets a dangerous precedent by having courts becoming arbiters of what is a legitimate religion, and what is not.

    I’m sure there’s a lot of fundies out there that would like to have Mormons on the banned list.

  10. “It sets a dangerous precedent by having courts becoming arbiters of what is a legitimate religion, and what is not.”

    And what the fundies forget is that it is certainly possible that one day they may themselves be the oddball minority, as Christians were at the beginning of church history.

    (I say this as a believer who thinks that power politics are inimical to the mission of Christ’s church.)

  11. If they grant exemptions for drug use to religous orginizations what prevents people that just want to smoke pot from claiming they have founded a new religon and marajuna use is part of it? Has this ever been attempted and gone to court?

  12. mike slye

    Someone told me that won’t work. It has to be a “traditional” religion. And “they” get to define what that is.

    According to this person you also can’t “convert” to any of these churches. You have to belong to the privileged group to begin with.

    I have nothing to back this up, when I get a chance I’ll look into it more.

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