In the London Times, Steve Boggan describes his experience taking tea with Santo Daime followers in Brazil:
I am deep in the Amazon rainforest, anxiously losing my mind as the world begins to disintegrate. Around me, all sense of distance is wrapping itself up like spatial origami, slowly shrinking until an entire dimension has disappeared. A moment ago, I was surrounded by 200 people dressed in white and singing like angels, but now they occupy the same space as me.
Wherever I look, that is where I am. I can see everything from every angle, all at the same time. In fact, I feel I am everywhere. Outside, in the forest, the thrum of frogs and cicadas drowns out the sound of shrieking monkeys. Below me, the floor is shimmering, vanishing in waves like a spent mirage. Behind, I feel a cold vibration on my neck and sense a growling malevolence. I turn and see a red door, bulging at the hinges. Overcome with dread, I push hard to keep it closed, and all the while I feel a horrible nausea.
The tea in question, ayahuasca, contains the psychedelic dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is legal for religious use in Brazil but banned in most of the world, including the U.K., where hundreds of Santo Daime adherents meet clandestinely to take their sacrament. The religion also has attracted followers elsewhere in Europe but is legally protected only in the Netherlands. And in the U.S.—maybe. As I reported in my June 2007 reason article about religious use of drugs, Uniao do Vegetal, another Brazilian sect that uses ayahusca, has won relief from government harassment under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Logically speaking, the law also should protect Santo Daime, which has similar beliefs and practices, but the question has not been litigated.
Still, here is one way in which the U.S. is more civilized/enlightened/tolerant (take your pick) than most of Europe. Not only did a tiny, obscure sect win the right to use an otherwise illegal drug through a unanimous Supreme Court interpretation of a statute that passed Congress almost unanimously, but it did so with the support of mainstream religious groups such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, and the National Association of Evangelicals. You can mention this counterexample the next time you hear a Europhilic progressive bemoan our lack of socialized medicine and fondness for guns.